Longton Has A Bright Future At Its CoRE

Stoke-on-Trent is set be the key player in the future of refurbishing homes to 21st century standards.

The Centre of Refurbishing Excellence in Longton was opened today with a round of speeches from senior figures from Stoke-on-Trent and the government.

“Three quarters of the homes that will stand in 2050 are already built” said Andrew Stunell MP, junior minister from the Department of Communities and Local Government. The CoRE will be a hub for training the next generation of home improvers.

The CoRE is a venture sponsored chiefly by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Stoke-on-Trent College and the Building Research Establishment (a construction industry organisation).

Hundreds of existing workers will join new students in January to develop skills in the trade.

There were positive whispers at the event noting that CoRE will put Stoke-on-Trent on the map not only nationally, but across Europe.

Next door, a conference centre is being built around historic bottle kilns which will host business events, product launches and organisation conferences, due for completion in Autumn 2012.

Speakers were (in order):
Peter Bounds (Chair of CoRE)
Cllr Ruth Rosenau (Cabinet Member for Regeneration)
Don Leiper (Director of New Business at E.ON)
Cllr Mohammed Pervez (Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council)
Andrew Stunell OBE MP (Junior Communities and Local Government Minister)

Present also were Rob Flello MP, John van der Laarschot (Stoke-on-Trent City Council Chief Executive), Cllr Paul Shotton (Deputy council leader) and Cllr Gwen Hassall (cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods).

Traveller Gypsies Vandalise Park Hall Beauty Spot

Park Hall is one of the city’s areas of outstanding natural beauty. The rolling hills to one side of Park Hall Road, the lake and open green space to the other side.

The residents of the area, old and young, respect the area totally.

Park Hall hills draw visitors from far and wide. The area offers moments of tranquillity and an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Dog walkers enjoy the hills, the lake and green space alike and always clean up the mess their canine friends produce.

To me Park Hall is the jewel in the south of the city’s crown.

However in the past week the area came under attack [I consciously use the word attack] from a group of gypsy travellers who absolutely vandalised the area.

About 30 vans arrived on Saturday 2nd July. They bumped their caravans over a curb and decided to set up camp on the green space next to Park Hall lake.

As is customary the travellers showed no respect to the area, the land, or the residents.

They left exactly one week later leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Rubbish was strewn all over the green space. Garden rubbish, rubble, tarmac, clothing general household rubbish, used nappies was discarded without a care.

I visited the area yesterday [Sunday 10th] and took the pictures below on my phone. The damage the caravans had done to the land will take time to repair.

The poor council workers who will undoubtedly be left to clean up after these vandals will also have to deal with an amount of human excrement left as a present by these gypsy travellers.

So, they were there for a week, how come it took so long to get rid of them? Who is to blame? How much will the cleanup operation cost?

The ward councillor Matt Fry was onto the problem almost immediately. In turn Rob Flello, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South was alerted, who in turn put pressure on the council officers and the police.

The hold up, and it happens in every case where gypsy travellers invade an area, is solely down to the time it takes to get the necessary paperwork to and through the courts. The courts give the police permission to evict the travellers on a certain date usually within two weeks of the arrival of the caravans.

Matt Fry, Rob Flello, the police and in particular the officers of the council, cannot be faulted in this case. They worked as a team for the good of the residents and the community to rid the area of this blight on the landscape.

Rob Flello was in constant communication with the police on the matter and as a result of an appeal by the senior officer in charge to the leader of the travellers, the area was eventually evacuated on Saturday 9th.

Cllr Matt Fry along with Rob Flello MP are now in discussions with the relevant officers of the council to ensure there is a thorough cleanup operation and measures taken to prevent any return including a fence or bollards.

I don’t want to turn this into a race issue, to me this is about respect, or to be more accurate, the lack thereof.

People say that gypsies get a rough deal, I just don’t buy that.

Anyone who watched the recent TV series “ËœMy Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ would have observed that there is arrogance within the travelling community.

They demand respect but the travellers rarely show respect for people or the land they so often mistreat and vandalise.

The programme showed that the caravans in which they live are kept spotlessly clean. The permanent gypsy sites sited around the country are also well kept and the land tended.

But their good housekeeping is limited to their own vans and sites. They do not care a jot about taxpaying communities who are trying their best for the areas in which we live.

They are classed as an ethnic minority and I have no issue with that whatsoever.

What I do care about is that our City Council are left to foot the bill for cleaning up the mess that these people leave behind them.

I was told over the weekend that the cleanup will cost the city council in the region of £5000 plus the cost of ensuring that gypsy travellers cannot access the land in the future.

In an era when we are losing facilities, services and leisure amenities through cuts it is an outrage that these people are allowed to carry on inflicting mess and disruption to areas of our city.

The penalties for the vandalism that gypsy travellers inflict on our communities and areas of natural beauty need to be a whole lot tougher. If they were locked up until they were forced to pay for the cleanup following one of their uninvited stays, they may think twice about how they treat the land in the future.

As my old dad used to say “Ëœrespect is earned not demanded’.

Stoke MP Lends Support to New School For Children with Autism

Rob Flello, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South is lending his support to the creation of a new specialist school in Stoke-on-Trent for children with autism.

The new “ËœSon-shine School of Autism’ will cater for children with autism between the ages of 3-13. The emphasis of the school will be on equipping children with autism, with the social and educational skills needed to enter, or re-enter mainstream schools. The school will act as an interventionist strategy for all the pupils with autism, but will also act as a preventative strategy for those children under the age of 6, attending school for the first time.

The initiative is being led by Mr Gareth Bowen whose son William is autistic. The Sentinel covered William’s story in 2008 and supported Mr and Mrs Bowen’s fundraising activities which enabled them to travel to the US to investigate alternative therapies for children with autism.

The School will be run in partnership with IMAP (Individuals Making Autism Positive). Children will be taught in an environment that will give them the social skills to manage their behaviours, so that could then go on to learn in mainstream public schools.

Pupils at the school will benefit from one to one tuition and from specialist teaching techniques pioneered in the US, that will allow pupils to better understand the need to follow instructions in a school environment, as well as benefiting from a personalised curriculum to meet their social, educational and physiological needs.

”I fully support the efforts of Mr Bowen and those organisations behind this initiative to help provide children on the autistic spectrum in Stoke-on-Trent with the specialist support and an educational environmental that will allow local children with autism to fulfil their potential.

“Any facility that seeks to broaden the support available to children and teenagers with autism and help children with autism overcome the difficulties they face as a result of their condition, should be encouraged.

“Drawing on his own experiences with his son William, I know that Gareth has a wide and substantial knowledge of the alternative treatments and support available to children with autism, which can be adopted to help children with autism flourish.”

”I would encourage any parents with children with autism in the Stoke-on-Trent area who would be interested in learning more about the proposed school to contact myself on 01782 326066 or at garethbowen@hotmail.com.

“I genuinely believe that this school of autism will have a substantial impact on the future life chances of the children we teach.”

Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello MP Welcomes Launch of Consultation on Labour’s Justice Policy

Rob Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South is to be at the heart of a public consultation and working group launched by Labour to review its Justice Policy programme.

A working group of experts from across the criminal justice field will help Labour formulate a policy programme with the aim of striking the right balance between punishment and reform. The group will hold public consultation events and seminars across the country, taking evidence from those working on the front line in prisons, youth offending institutions, courts and community projects as well as hearing from victims of crime.

Some of those advising the Labour Justice team in an independent capacity include Dame Helen Reeves, founding Chief Executive of Victim Support, Barry Mizen, founder of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and Lord Norman Warner, former Chair of the Youth Justice Board.

”Labour’s record on bringing down crime is unparalleled, but it is being put at risk by the Tory-led Government’s cuts to police numbers, victim support, the probation services and the prison estate.

“I am pleased to announce some of the country’s leading independent experts in this area will be lending their expertise to this process as we develop policies that work to cut crime, protect the public and ensure that justice is served.

“It is vital that the public are involved in this process, and that their priorities are reflected in Labour’s policies. That is why we have launched a dedicated website (http://www.justicereview.org.uk/) where people can post their ideas and suggestions and contribute to this review which will help shape Labour’s Justice policy for the next election.”

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!”

No Local Enterprise Zone For Stoke-on-Trent

Wednesdays Budget saw Chancellor, George Osborne MP announce that the first 11 of 21 Local Enterprise Zones will be set up in

  • Leeds
  • Sheffield
  • Liverpool
  • Greater Manchester
  • West of England
  • Tees Valley
  • North East
  • The Black Country
  • Derbyshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • London

Although Stoke-on-Trent was not one of the initial 11 Enterprise Zones announced, it is hoped that it will be one of the successful partnerships to make it through the competitive round in summer for one of the final 10 zones yet to be announced. Guidance from CLG states, in general, only one designation will be made per partnership, but Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said in an interview with Tony Walley that Stoke-on-Trent has already been agreed as the favoured location for an enterprise zone by the Stoke & Staffordshire LEP.

According to the CLG the 11 Enterprise Zones named in the budget focus on city regions and those areas that have missed out in the last ten years.

Although looking at the amount of regeneration carried out in Manchester & Liverpool it would appear that they have both had massive investment in recent years.

The new Local Enterprise Zones will benefit from:

  • 100% business rate discount for five years worth up to £275,000 per business
  • Retention of business rates for 25 years
  • Simplified planning regulations
  • Super-fast broadband, this will be funded from the public purse where necessary
  • Enhanced capital allowances

Pits n Pots asked our three local MPs what they thought of the announcement on Enterprise Zones and Stoke-on-Trent not being listed as one of the first Enterprise Zones.

This budget announced 11 enterprise zones are to be set up and then revealed that 10 had already been chosen. So much for “localism” and transparency about where they should be! There is though to be a competition to determine which others are chosen but it is likely there will be far more applicants than winners. We need a recovery plan for the whole of the UK including areas with most need of new jobs. So I shall be asking our Local Enterprise Partnership what progress they have made and be ready to support any bid.
The bidding process for the Enterprise Zones was completely unclear – so we had no chance to influence the result. The challenge now is for the Stoke-on-Trent MPs to work with the Local Enterprise Partnership to secure a winning bid in this summer’s competitive round. It would be great to gain an Enterprise Zone but this is not the be all and end all for Stoke-on-Trent’s regeneration. I am just as worried by plans for the carbon floor price and its effects on the ceramics industry as the Enterprise Zone proposals.

Unfortunately Rob Flello MP had not responded at the time of publication despite being the only MP who had a political assistant cc’d on the request.

Tony Walley caught up with Council Leader Mohammed Pervez after yesterdays full council meeting to get his views on the Local Enterprise Zones, you can listen to his interview below.

Stoke North MP Fights For Tunstall Pool.

Stoke-on-Trent North MP Joan Walley is backing the fight to save Tunstall Pool.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have confirmed that the Pool is to be closed and the Victorian building, which is listed, mothballed if no trust or organisation offer to take over the running of the pool.

Joan Walley MP has written to the City Council asking for urgent action to preserve one of the few remaining Victorian public baths.

Her letter to the head of Adult Services also questions why the city Council have failed to act in the previous 12 months.

RE: Budget Development 2011/12-2012/13

Tunstall Pool – URGENT

I am writing further to my meeting with you last week to follow up what can be done even at this late
stage for a reconsideration of the City Council’s recommended decision to close Tunstall Pool.

I have raised this also with Tristram Hunt MP and Rob Flello, MP and they support me in wanting to
ensure a solution is found and there is no interruption to the facility.
Firstly, when we met you said that I could have a copy of the consultant’s report which the City
Council has commissioned in respect of swimming policy. I don’t appear to have received that yet and
would be grateful for an early copy in order that I can respond to you.

Secondly, I would like confirmation that the members of the City Council have had chance to
consider this report themselves prior to finalising any decision about the future of Tunstall Pool. In
earlier meetings with the City Council I was advised that the report it intended to commission on
wider aspects of swimming policy would be the background against which any proposals in respect
of the future of Tunstall Pool would be made. It is as important as ever that any decisions made by the
City Council are informed ones.

I wish to make you personally aware of my approaches to your department over the last 12 months
on this matter, including a meeting with the Cabinet member and sports officer on this matter. I have
been in contact with the City Council since March last year, and have asked for and attended meetings
from April onwards. Throughout all of this my approach was to ask the City Council to work up
options and different business case scenarios for all eventualities, including budget pressures. The
Leader of the City Council was aware of my approaches in this respect.

Having approached the Amateur Swimming Association almost a year ago, and received their offer of
help to assist the City Council to work with them to secure a £50,000 grant to kick-start discussions
as to a long term way forward, including seeking other funding, I had expected that the City Council
would have made firm progress by now. I also asked the City Council to consider all other options,
even if that meant considering alternative ways of running the pool should that become necessary.
I also envisaged an application to HLF for that part of the building which is listed and to the Big
Lottery/sport funding bodies to provide the refurbishment and repair costs. I expected that the City
Council would draw up detailed plans and business scenarios to seek ways of securing capital and
revenue funding. I repeat again that I forwarded to the City Council the confirmation I was given
from the Lottery bodies that should the City Council approach them with bids they would meet with
the City Council to set out what funding options could be open.

I understand from David Sparkes, CEO of the Amateur Swimming Association that they are still
committed to providing some funding towards keeping Tunstall Pool open and operational in some
form and that they were awaiting the outcome of the Consultant’s Report to enable them to construct
a strategy whereby this could happen. The Amateur Swimming Association was informed that this
would not be available until the 24th February 2011. It does not seem logical to make a decision
regarding the future of the swimming pool without giving the Amateur Swimming Association and
other interested groups the opportunity to assist.

The Amateur Swimming Association is prepared to consider the creation of a Trust to operate
the swimming pool in the short term assuming the economics are viable. I understand that you
have provided them with financial data relating to the operation of the pool but they are awaiting a
structural report before submitting a proposal to the City Council. Surely the City Council should give
this option serious consideration before making an arbitrary decision?

I have asked for information to be able to understand how much the pool costs to run, what
investment has/ has not been spent over the years, what benefits the pool being run by a Trust/non-
profit making organisation/ social enterprise/ alternative provider could bring in respect of reduced
VAT, tax costs etc, what scope there could be to include Tunstall pool in any reconfiguration of
swimming, and whether the City Council would approach the HLF and other Sport funding bodies to
secure the funds to update the building to ensure reduced running costs and a viable business plan.

On each occasion I have had meetings there has been no evidence that serious proposals to achieve
this have been followed up and there does not appear to have been a business case to explore options
to keep the pool open.

Tunstall Pool is used extensively by those learning to swim, for fitness and health and for leisure. It is
an English Heritage Grade 2 Listed Building and it is difficult to see what alternative use it will be put
to once the pool is closed or moth balled by the City Council. It is used extensively by older people
who rely on it for good health and well being. It is used by youngsters learning to swim. It fulfils
a substantial part of the Council’s responsibilities to provide water safety. It is used extensively by
young and old alike within the local population and is located in an area with considerable deprivation
and need for social cohesion initiatives. There is a small studio available for events. There is no limit
to the wider use that could be made of it.

Throughout the City Council’s consultation response to the government cuts, local people have
contacted the City Council to ask for Tunstall Pool to be saved, but the strength of local feeling does
not appear to have been fully recorded or reflected in the City Council’s response. On this I have been
asked to receive a further petition on Friday 18/2/2011 at 3.15pm and I intend to do this and pass it on
to the City Council.

I still maintain that it is not too late for the Council to accept in good faith not just the weight of
public opinion but also the support it and I have from the ASA to work together to find a solution. It
is difficult to see how if the City Council decides to close or mothball the pool with immediate effect
how such an option could remain on the table, and experience elsewhere bears this out.

I am therefore asking if in the light of the interest of the ASA and in the best interests of swimming
across the City if you will look again at the costs of keeping it open until such time as talks with the
Amateur Swimming Association and others could establish whether a realistic proposal could be
put forward to keep the pool open, and in the medium and longer term secure the refurbishment that
would cut costs and secure a business plan that would ensure its future viability. I would also want
this to be considered in the light of the public health and social cohesion agenda.

This is a well used and loved historic pool. I am asking again if you will respond to me not in general
terms but with details of what has actually been done, or could now be done to set out options that

could preserve Tunstall Pool short, medium and long term at what I know is a challenging time for all
concerned.

I confirm again that I am willing to give what support I can and would like Stoke-on-Trent City
Council to explore a grant application, and approach other providers even at this late stage to get a
stay of execution to enable a robust Plan B to be drawn up.

I am copying this to cabinet members and to those who have contacted me about this so that they are
aware of my further request that the City Council makes informed decisions in respect of 4-ASCO6
ANS Tunstall Pool Closure.

Thank you for your attention to this. I would welcome an early meeting with yourself and with the
ASA and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Walley MP
Stoke-on-Trent North

A community group has now been formed and they are seeking a stay of execution from the council while they explore the possibility of forming a trust.

A public meeting has been arranged for 7.30pm tomorrow 22nd February at Christchurch, Tunstall.

The organisers are hoping that a number of councillors and cabinet members will be in attendance and urge everyone to support their community group in the fight to save Tunstall Pool.

Dave Moss – Shooting From The Lip.

Petition On The “Smelly” Wagon Problem

The other day posted through our letterbox at home was a petition form from Rob Flello MP and Ruth Rosenau asking us to sign and send back about the “smelly” wagon problem asking that all wagons are refrigerated that carries waste meat going down the A520.

I remember in answer to one of Warrens earlier posts about this I said that the real problem here could not be dealt with locally but needed to be dealt with at a national level and needed to be taken up by our MP. This petition should get cross party support from our local councillors as this is a real problem in this area. I live close enough to the A520 to smell them passing by in the summer luckily not close enough to stop going out in the garden unless the wind is in the wrong direction, I believe this petition could make a difference and have signed it because it is being dealt with at the correct level of politics national.

I am now going to look at why I wouldn’t support an earlier petition on the same subject, Councillor Michael Coleman recently produced another petition on the same subject delivering 9000 leaflets from Meir to Cheddleton asking the council to do something about the problem my main question is why and even if it is presented at council it should be thrown out anyway let me explain why.

Firstly there is nothing Stoke City Council can legitimately do about it in the first place. The Lorries are licensed by a national body; the plant is not within the planning constraints of the city so what can the council do. Also how many of the signatories are from within the limits of the city council, leaflets were delivered outside the city boundaries so how many of the statutory number of signatures were from within the city boundaries.

This in my mind was just a political act by the BNP not a real attempt to solve the problem which is why I wouldn’t support it. Also the petition was asking for a driver to be sacked for what is really a driving offence so something for his employers to deal with.

The BNP as a political party would have known that this could not be dealt with at local level and known that this was a national problem, as a local politician Mr Coleman would also have known this. Although I will give the previous petition its due it has likely caused the second petition.

Update
I have closed and removed the comments on this post because they are now getting defamatory and potentially libelous. I seem to remember we had this situation last time this matter was discussed.

The company in question run a fleet of their own vehicles they also have carcasses delivered in by other contractors, either by means of sub contract or by companies & livestock farmers who make their own arrangements to have carcasses delivered.

It is a sweeping generalisation to say that every time you find some blood or a dead animal on the road between Stoke & Cheddleton it is the fault of the company which owns the rendering plant. While there is a very good chance that the vehicle that dropped part of its load on to the highway was going to this rendering plant it is not guaranteed, (there is at least one more in or around Leek)nor can it be guaranteed that it was a vehicle owned or contracted to them.

The only way that the two can be linked is by a chain of evidence such as the vehicle registration number date & time being reported to the police & environmental health people, who should then trace the vehicle and will be able to work out if it is owned by or sub contracted to the company in question or is just delivering to them.

Mike

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Me and my wife were saddened to receive a letter from Longton North Councillor Mark Davis last week informing us that he had decided to stand down as a councillor and will not contest the all out elections in May.

We have known Mark and his wife Jane for a few years and have worked with him on a number of projects in the ward in which we live.

Mark has always been a very hard working and committed councillor and many people who live in Longton North have benefited from his help and enthusiasm. He has been described as a warm and caring councillor who is always willing to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in.

Cllr Davis is one of three Labour Party councillors to serve the good folk of Longton North. He has worked alongside Cllr Tom Reynolds and current Lord Mayor Denver Tolley since Labour managed to gain a clean sweep for Labour with the defeat of the BNP a few years ago.

Mark is married to Jane Heggie who until recently was an integral part of Rob Flello MP’s constituency office.

People in Stoke-on-Trent are in no doubt as to the contribution that Jane and Tom Reynolds made to the running of Rob’s office and his victory at the last General Election in 2010.

Jane and Tom were made redundant by Rob Flello just after that election victory.

This came as a massive shock to Labour activists in Stoke-on-Trent South CLP.

Rob Flello made a number of redundancies in an organisational change that he puts down to the change enforced by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority [IPSA] formed following the MP’s expense scandal.

The Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South still created two full time posts and I believe that he is currently advertising for a third.

Jane and Tom were forced to re-apply for the new posts and for some totally bizarre reason were deemed unsuitable for the new positions.

This decision has played no small part in Cllr Davis’s decision not to stand for election for the Labour Party this May.

I’ve massively enjoyed serving as your councillor, but so many things have changed for Jane and I in the last year or so that I’ve had to think long and hard about whether I want to stand for re-election this year.

Jane being made redundant after the General Election has made us reassess what we are doing and how we manage financially, and obviously, our little boy, Joseph, demands more and more of our time too. After a lot of thought and soul searching we’ve come to the conclusion that it is better if I don’t stand for Council, so that I can concentrate of growing my business ““ something I’ve neglected over the last few years.

Cllr Davis’s decision will mean the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council will have lost one of their most able councillors and someone who was tipped to go far in both the Council and the Labour Party. His decision is yet another by product of the MP’s decision to “Ëœreorganise, his office.

There is no doubt that Stoke-on-Trent South CLP has lost their mojo since Jane Heggie and Tom Reynolds were shown the door by Rob Flello MP. I say this with no disrespect to the new members of staff employed within the constituency office.

Stoke South Labour members are still perplexed and some are totally angry by the actions of the MP in this matter. Indeed a senior member who used to hold an executive position is now helping Tristram Hunt in Stoke Central as a result.

Jane and Tom used to represent Rob Flello at certain meetings. Now those meetings are attended by Rob’s partner who is a volunteer worker at his office.

I am told that campaign organisation is lacking and volunteers are not forthcoming. In short Stoke South has gone from leading the way to the “Ëœalso ran’s’ among the Labour movement in the City.

Anyone who questions why I have chosen this subject as a blog post, let me say this – I was and still am, appalled at the treatment received by Jane and Tom.

This country has just come through the worse recession in living memory.

Businesses have fought the banks that were reluctant to release funds to business. Company leaders have had to cope with a plummeting market place.

There have been many victims in this recession. Many hard working folk were dumped on the dole queue as companies folded under the strain.

I am an operational Managing Director who, with my group colleagues across the country, fought tooth and nail to keep our staff employed. We were aware of our responsibilities and that fact that our staff had families and mortgages to pay.

We got through it without making a single redundancy, which for a company that relies on the manufacturing sector, I am immensely proud of.

I have never hid the fact that I consider myself to be a socialist and to witness a Labour MP use the change in MP’s expense rules to making redundancies has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Whilst I totally accept that Rob Flello MP acted within the law and did no wrong in relation to employment law, I have come to the conclusion that he must be a very different kind of socialist to me.

One party member said to me recently that he thought the actions in Stoke South over last summer brought socialism into disrepute.

It is a great testament to Jane and Tom that their involvement with the constituency Labour party continues and they remain committed to seeing a majority of Labour Councillors in the Council Chamber post election.

Those Labour benches will be missing one of their most capable however.

I wish Mark and his family all the very best for the future and on behalf of the good folk of Longton North, I say thank you for all your efforts.