A Sneyd Green Mum writes

The Sentinel carried a poignant letter recently from a Sneyd Green Mum whose 45 year old son had been out of work for 4 years and despite hundreds of job application remained unemployed. He had volunteered for 15 weeks within a Co-operative Store in the City. His mother felt that such a comparatively young man had been tossed onto a scrap heap

This heart felt cry puts into plain words the central difficulty that the unemployed face in trying to get into work in Stoke-on-Trent. The jobs are not out there. Last week the Sentinel advertised 378 jobs in an area where there are 11,000 unemployed. Continue reading

New Mosque for Stoke-on-Trent South ““ What’s the Issue?

Yesterday’s Sentinel contained a story about the proposed new Mosque at the top of Chaplin Road in Normacot and surprise surprise it has attracted well over a 100 comments.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the story at all, but the comments left on the website shows that this kind of issue always brings out the extremes in our society.

The mosque in question will be built to replace the existing mosque on the opposite side of the road, yet you would think that this building was just being planted on the Normacot landscape with no prior history.

This mosque, the land on which it will sit, plus additional land/buildings which will be turned into car parking, has been brought and paid for by members of the Normacot community. There is no council/government windfall that is funding this project, just the hard work and endeavours of the Asian community who want a place of worship that is fir for purpose.

The new building will replace an old derelict pottery that was, until it was demolished, an eyesore and blot on the landscape.

This new mosque will be an attractive property that will be landscaped, have arched windows and a domed roof with a minaret. In my opinion it will be a vast improvement on what was there previously.

Reading the comments left on the Sentinel website made me question the mentality of some people.

Here are just a few examples:

” I hope the councillors reject this preposterous idea of building a second mosque in the City!”
”Welcome to Great Britain….NOT”
”well it as not taken long for this to happen as it? when will you lot learn that the labour party is run buy asains so this will get the rubber stamp. should have voted BNP ?? how stupid you are! just wake up
”what a joke, another mosque at a cost of £1.5 million, where do they get the money from? this labour party is a load of bull who will grant permission for mosques but nothing else. we need more work places built or houses for BRITISH people, its not us being racist, its LABOUR”
”William Blake’s imortal song ” Jerusalem ” will have to be written to accommodate these mosques soon i fear :
‘Till we have built ISLAMABAD In England’s green and pleasant land’
”The people of Stoke only have themselves to blame for this. You got what you voted for and boy did you. Everyone of you had the chance to vote BNP in may and you didnt. If you had then you would of had BNP councellors on the council to reject it and most likely of had the plans scrapped. I have no simpathy for you cos you had the chance to have your say in may and you were silent. NO POINT SHOUTING NOW”

And this in a City that has just voted every last politician of a far right persuasion out of the council chamber.

The fact is that the Normacot community want a bigger building than the one that is there at the moment so they want to replace it ““ why is that such an issue.

Just three letters of objection were sent to the council raising the following concerns:

1. The existing mosque already creates nuisance which would be exacerbated by the proposed development.
2. The scheme would create traffic danger.
3. The building would be an eyesore.
4. There is no need for another mosque as there are others around the city

A letter of support was sent by the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello stating that he supports the development of all faith and religious organisations in the area and considers that allowing them to develop new places of worship helps these groups thrive. He considers that the proposal will be a welcome addition to the wider community.

One concern I do have relates to parking. Friday’s can be a bit of a nightmare for motorists in the area and often cars are double parked or parked illegally around the site of the existing mosque.

The main highway issue is parking. The mosque is intended to serve the local community and as there are mosques in other parts of the city, a large proportion of worshipers are expected to bewithin walking distance. There is also a bus service passing the site.

Notwithstanding this, parking remains an issue and it is evident that there is significant demand for on-street parking at the busiest times at the existing mosque. A total of 39 parking spaces is proposed in the current application, the majority of which would be on the northern part of the site. The outline scheme would have provided 53 spaces in an underground car park. Although on a parking space / floorspace ratio, the current provision would be more or less the same as before (because of the smaller size of building now proposed), the overall number of visitors is likely to be the same. If there are not enough spaces to satisfy the demand, congestion could occur as visitors try to enter the car park when full. It is therefore suggested that the applicants use a permit system so that those in most need of a parking space could be allocated one. This could be arranged through a travel plan which is included at condition 4..

In addition to the off-site arrangements it was considered appropriate in relation to the outline application for funding to be provided for the introduction of parking controls in the area should they prove to be necessary. This would be returned after three years if parking problems had not occurred. This was controlled through a S106 agreement. The same arrangement is considered appropriate in this instance. The outline permission was also conditional to traffic calming measures being provided within the vicinity of the mosque and again these should be provided.

The submitted travel plan is generally good including targets and measures to reduce single occupancy car trips to the site. The final details of this will need to be agreed by condition but subject to this, and the provisions referred to above, the development is considered to be acceptable in highway terms and is in accordance with policiesT1A and T18A.

The other issue is the myth about the call to prayer and how it will be heard all over the south of the city. Again the council planning office has built in restrictions to protect residents of any noise pollution.

The applicants have indicated that they would like to operate a call to prayer which would be announced through an internal PA system 5 minutes before the actual prayer meeting takes place. The previous permission was subject to a condition which limited the volume and times that prayer calls could take place and it is suggested that a similar condition be used, should the current application be approved.

Planning officers conclude their report with the recommendation that the proposal be approved.

That will not deter the dissenters of course and those who wish to turn the issue of worship into a political debate.

Rumours are circulating around the south of the city that the BNP have seized this issue and are set for a robust leaflet campaign. Internet forums are hinting that the English Defence League may use this issue to make a return visit to our city.

Finally, if like this contributor:

This protracted debate indicates what is increasingly wrong with this site. The irksome debate of how many dancing pinheads are involved in far right local politics is an unhealthy obsession with the author of the article. Surely it would be to the benefit of everyone that we concentrate on finding solutions to those seemingly intractable problems that drive the disillusionment with main stream politics such as unemployment, poverty, low wages and poor levels of attainment?

you are left wondering why I am sensitive about issues like this and the danger of the far right in the City of Stoke-on-Trent, just read this taken from today’s Stoke England First Website and then ask yourselves where the real danger comes from?

No sooner is the pisspoor excuse for an election over, than that bastard Pervez is at it again.

The plans for a terrorist training camp in Normacot; oops, sorry, that should read plans for a new mosque in Normacot; are back on the table, and that tubby immigrant is driving forward his plans to colonise Stoke-on-Trent with his muzzie brethren by building mosques in every part of the city, making sure that that the vast majority of taxi services are muslim based- an unfair monopoly- that public swimming pools are closed so his mate Mo can rip off even more people with his sky high charges, and now with the re-appearance of that far left bum bandit Meredith, they will flood the city with even more immigrants, like the overspill from Birmingham currently turning the north of the city into a black enclave!

Take a look at the voluntary bodies handed £millions every year by the city council. Look at VAST, and who runs it, look at the Dudson centre and who runs it, listen to their bullshit about what an important service they perform for the city, then do like me and several colleagues did, and take a good close look at their finances.

Perfoming an important service for the city?

Bollocks, the majority of the money that goes through the doors of places like this is taken up in salaries and pension payments!

“ËœUnemployment, poverty, low wages and poor levels of attainment’ make for attitude like this do they? Somehow I think that it is a whole lot more to do with hatred.

I pose the following to the reader:

Does the danger to our city and the people who live here come from the building of a new mosque for the Muslim population of the south of the city?

Or from far right extremists who display a lack of tolerance, respect and attitudes like this?

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

More On The Cuts and The Apparent Insensitivity of The Council.

On Saturday, I was invited to hitch a ride aboard the Council’s Cuts Bus.

We met in Stoke, talked to some people, moved on to Fenton Manor and talked a deal more and the bus then headed up to Hanley [City Centre].

I was the only media there apart from a Sentinel photographer. Most of BBC Radio Stoke was on-strike over pensions. That’s the good thing about Pits n Pots and the hyper-local sites across the country, as we do our thing for nothing apart from the love of our City, we would turn up to the opening of an envelope!

I was keen to gauge the opinion of the public, not the politicians so much as I’m pretty sure I know where they are coming from.

The public really surprised me. They did not hit out at our local council, they did however, take a massive swipe at the coalition government.

Their opinions only served to reinforce my view that the Conservatives will face a backlash over these upcoming cuts. The Liberal Democrats face oblivion!

The council are saying that they need to realise budget savings of £33million, yet in an audio interview I did with the Cabinet Member for Resources Kieran Clarke he revealed that the cuts were likely to be in the region of £25million, and could be as much as £28million.

It begs the question and has prompted some scrutiny of why the council executive is advocating cuts £5-8million more than is actually required.

One answer could be; worst case scenario, the more politically astute among the city would suggest that this could be a PR exercise on behalf of the council executive.

If you listen to the audio with the members of the public it is obvious that there are some proposed closures that are simply not palatable to the folk in this city.

We are a caring city, Stokies look after the elderly, the young and the most vulnerable in our society. It’s inbuilt in every one of us [apart from people like Craig Pond and his ilk who only care if you are white!] It’s who we are!

So when the council save some of the Children’s Centre’s and protect some of the elderly care services earmarked for a reduction or possible closure, we have to be mindful that it is not an attempt to deflect our attention away from causes like Shelton & Tunstall pools, the closure of libraries or the City Farm.

It will be marketed as the “Ëœwe have listened’ budget but if we are not careful that £25-28million worth of cuts will be made by cutting the very things that give people of the city real enjoyment.

When it is put like “Ëœwhat do you prefer to see closed ““ The City Farm or a Sure Start Centre’? There is only one sensible answer.

But, on the other hand if there was no real need to close a Sure Start Centre as an example then that is a smokescreen and a very different matter indeed.

To some Potteye [Cllr Mike Barnes] and Community Voice are described as a “Ëœpain in the arse’ ““ they are often portrayed as troublemakers. But if they did not keep bringing these issues out into the fore we, the public would be none the wiser.

The question needs asking why there aren’t more councillors of all political persuasions asking pertinent questions and investigating those potential banana skins.

Then we have the massive own goal of the refurbishment of the first floor of the Civic Centre.

In the week where the council staff were told that up to 700 of them may lose their livelihoods, decking is laid to tart up an open space for the enjoyment of senior officers. It beggars belief!

Along with the need for biting cuts, the executive should and could have announced a moratorium of all unnecessary spend, whatever the project.

I have no doubts that some refurbishment and improvements are needed to certain sections of the Civic Centre, but are they really that desperate that even in these times of austerity, the CEO and senior politicians press ahead with the spending of a large amount of money to improve the working environment of the elite within the council.

I call on all group leaders to call for a halt in the refurbishment of the 1st floor to show the public of this city that cuts bite even at the top.

But more importantly it is essential out of respect to those workers who face the loss of their jobs that our council put a stop to all un-necessary spending.

‘Ask The Commander’ Online Debate Proves Huge Success

Over 60 people attended Staffordshire Police’s first online community meeting on Wednesday evening.

Internet users from across Stoke-on-Trent were invited to get involved in the meeting and have the opportunity to ask the commander about the issues affecting them.

In total 62 people logged into one of the many local community websites hosting the meeting to find out more about policing in Stoke-on-Trent.

“The idea of holding public engagement meetings online is still very new and we knew we would learn from the experience. Meetings like this are normally held in community centres and often it’s not convenient for people to attend. Holding the meeting online allowed members of the public to send questions in advance and review the responses either ‘live’ during the meeting or review them later at a time convenient for them.

Whilst a number of organisations across the country hold digital meetings, they are normally hosted on the organisations own web site. I was keen that our meeting was hosted on the web sites owned and run by the community we serve.”

The meeting ran simultaneously on www.pitsnpots.co.uk, www.6townsradio.co.uk, www.mytunstall.co.uk, www.longtonsouth.co.uk and www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk

Users were invited to send in questions in advance which were answered during the meeting and dozens of other points were raised during the meeting and answered by the Ch Supt. Bernie O’Reilly, commander of the Stoke Police Division and Don Knapper, Chief Prosecutor from the CPS.

Feedback from members of the community will now be reviewed so that the force can see how to be involved in future online meetings, as part of the ongoing engagement and consultation which is a key part of neighbourhood policing in Staffordshire.

Users of Twitter can continue to follow updates from Police in Stoke-on-Trent by following @policingstoke or visiting www.Twitter.com/policingstoke

In reply to Tristram Hunt

Tristram Hunt in his recent Sentinel article identifies the central problems that have beset my hometown-Stoke on Trent- but it is a problem that has probably existed from since post Second World War. A reading of any local newspaper from before the 1950s will inform anyone that the long-term decline of the area is nearly getting on for 50 years.

Of course the area was badly hit by the mass unemployment of the 80s but over all something like 120,000 jobs have been lost in the traditional industries of steel, pottery and mining since the 50s

But I do not have a pessimistic view. I do believe that Stoke and the wider North Staffs area does have a future, but we live in perilous times.

Mr Hunt is right to invoke the names of Wedgwood, Brindley and the rest, creators of the Industrial Revolution who deserve their place in the Pantheon of people who made modern Britain. I have no doubt that spirit of enterprise still exists in the area, but the area has been ill served and opportunities have been missed. I recall as a young Stoke Councillor in the early 80s making the case for a transit system the same as was being proposed in Manchester and Sheffield using the old loop line. What could have been achieved in settling the transport problems of the area if we had such a system?

It is not as if the area has been starved of Government cash or lack initiatives. Since the mid 70s there have been a number and a perusal of the local papers over the years marks the launch of one initiative after another all of which, in banner headlines, offered hope and a route to turn the area around. The latest being the local pathfinder RENEW which offered so much when it began in 2004. But mistakes have been made perhaps the most glaring being the return of over £20 million to the Treasury because the regeneration authorities could not think of any projects to spend the money.

The problem has been, in so many cases; the authorities have had no confidence in the local people of North Staffs. How many times have managers been bought in to run these projects who have no commitment to the area. The City Council is itself a good example in this regard. The appointment of Mr Van Der Laarschot is the 5th Chief Executive since 2006. How can you build foundations for the future when the most senior managers in the authority have no passion for the area and seem to see it as another brief stage on their CV?

But I want to sound a more triumphant note and Tristram is correct in one regard. He rightly identifies the potential and skills of local people and the answer will be to harness this talent.

As a Stoke person myself who lived in Tristram’s constituency for the first 20 odd years of my life before going off to University and then serving as a Councillor in Hartshill for another 7 I have attempted to give an opportunity for people who feel strongly about the area and its potential to express their ideas.

A few weeks ago I set up the Regenerate Stoke Facebook site mainly because I felt a deep sense of frustration of how closed the debate has been on the future of Stoke. In the past I have given for free a number of ideas to the regeneration agency and have felt patronised by the response.

I felt a few years ago that more could be made of the Wedgwood connection and that an annual festival around the Wedgwood themes of Industry, Art and Design could be held to generate ideas. The idea did not get anywhere.

( And by the way I slightly disagree with Tristram that there is a tradition of valuing learning especially in science and engineering. The area has a rich tradition of producing people in the forefront of science from Lord Kearton in the north through to Oliver Lodge, RJ Mitchell, Thomas Wedgwood and others I had little awareness of. For example a friend of mine- an Old Longtonian- mentioned a father and son Professors’ Astbury- father and son- who were pioneers in the structure of the keratin molecule significant in the wool industry who both attended his old school)

Regenerate Stoke has only been up a few weeks but has already attracted over 200 people and the site is brimming with ideas. Ideas such as the importance of art in regeneration, Green Energy schemes, the role of design, the possibility of setting up a LETS scheme, re establishing the Stoke-Lidice connection in the Czech Republic and the possibility of developing derelict land in the City. Ideas are there. The problem is for whatever reason the authorities have studiously ignored them and it is this that has to change.

Several people are mustering to organise a citizens conference on the future of the City in its second century to be held in the autumn. We live in hard times but we need to be positive about the future. It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some, like the great cathedral builders of Europe, may never see completely the fruit of their endeavours. But the pioneers who founded these great cities never got to see them in their first glory either.

We’ve come full circle. We are present again at the re-founding of a City like Stoke. This is the task, the duty, the calling that a new generation has chosen as its own, to write the history of their city anew. We need to make history again.

Why does North Staffs have such a terrible record for animal cruelty?

There is a truly horrible report in the Sentinel today about a “calculated execution” as it is reported of a guinea pig found hanging from a garden fence in Longton.

Rightly the RSPCA inspector is reported to be incensed at this calculated act of cruelty. It seems the animal which was the pet of a three year old child was taken from the the family hutch and as the report in the paper concludes that someone has thought about this and the killing of the animal was clearly planned.

Sadly Longton appeared in a notorious animal cruelty case in the early summer of 2002 when 4 people Craig Chapman, 27, Christine Besford, 25, Sarah Cooke, 21, and Theraza Smallwood, 22, pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty and conspiracy to publish obscene material after they were found to be making videos of animals being tortured and killed. A kitten, mice and guinea pigs were involved in a “crush video” when made where the animals were tortured and filmed in the process. What made the crime the more disgusting was the fact that some of the defendants worked in a pet store in Longton.

I recall writing a letter wishing that these stains on humanity be consigned to a Danteseque circle of hell where the treatment that they had doled out to these small creatures was visited on them.

Miserably there seems to be a market for this disgusting trade. An Observer investigation in 2002 following the Longton case has uncovered gruesome evidence that the market for such material in the UK was growing rapidly, with at least 2,000 such titles available at specialist internet sites and through individuals advertising in private chatrooms. They include Vanessa’s Frog Stomp, Mistress Di, Princess of Death and Debbie the Destructor, in which kittens, monkeys, rats, mice, frogs and other small animals, or even larger insects such as crickets, are crushed to death under heels, between breasts or simply by being sat on.

That was some years ago but more recent evidence suggests that animal cruelty seems to be increasing.

In a report in 2008 North Staffs featured in a RSPCA report as was of the worst areas of the country for animal cruelty. There has been an increase in dog fighting in the region. In 2004, the RSPCA received 24 reports of illegal dog fights; in 2008, it was 358.

This should be a major matter of concern. There is for example a well publicised link between child abuse and animal abuse. Some years ago the NSPCC and the RSPCA respondeded by setting up a top-level task force to identify those who abuse both animals and humans. The move has followed concerns raised by inspectors from both charities. “It’s been prompted by anecdotal evidence of inspectors going into a house and finding cases of animal cruelty and questionable care for the children,” said a spokesman for the RSPCA. “Our work is in the early days and we are still setting out the scientific parameters for what we will be looking for. We are keen to share any information that can help our cause and that of any other welfare agency.”

Why going green could be the key to our prosperity

The Sentinel carried this article in the business section of the paper this morning. I think it somes up the findings of the research well enough although mention of the political party I am a member of is unneccesary as well as not including the 6 companies I approached as fitting the green model better than Dudson’s but still the argument is out there and how we can build the local economy around a low carbon model.

My original conclusion was

“North Staffordshire has great opportunity to create and sustain decent environmentally sustainable jobs that will benefit all citizens of the area.

This report sets out to examine the possibilities that a move to a low carbon economy could have on providing “green collar” jobs in North Staffordshire and whether the move to such provision can provide opportunities especially for the long-term unemployed.

The area is fortunate in that it includes a number of strengths such as an engineering base as well as a long history of involvement in land reclamation.

It also an interest expressed in developing this agenda by a number of local agencies.

In carrying out this study it is apparent that the there is an awareness from the local business community of this potential. It shows itself in the transferable skills that people have bought to bear in developing green jobs.

There was an identification of a number of strengths in the local economy in the areas of recycling, micro energy generation and insulation. It is also heartening to say that the sector included both old and new companies.

70 of the 180 companies identified as providing green collar jobs in North Staffs were contacted to gauge the potential for expansion and the training needs of the sector.

The sector provides approximately 4,000 jobs in this growing area and is centred on Stoke ““on Trent, within the City areas of Stoke North and the Longton are featured as areas of concentration”.

The Sentinel report read

THE burgeoning green economy has the potential to create thousands of jobs for North Staffordshire, according to new research.

Former Staffordshire county councillor and Green Party member William Cawley has carried out a study in conjunction with Keele University’s Project Green, which gives recent and older graduates the chance to work on environmental schemes with local businesses.

Mr Cawley, of Leek, who was placed with energy efficiency scheme North Staffs Warm Zone, discovered that there are already 180 companies in the region providing about 4,000 so-called ‘green-collar’ jobs ““ positions that improve environmental quality.

And he believes the sector has the potential to create thousands more.

Mr Cawley, who is in the process of selling his historical walks business, Shriek In Leek, said: “North Staffordshire has a number of strengths such as an engineering base as well as a long history of involvement in land reclamation.

“The advantages of transitioning to a green economy are abundant. The demand for environmentally-friendly goods and services from both consumers and governments can help fuel economic growth through the creation of new industries and the revitalisation of struggling sectors.”

Mr Cawley said that because of the wide range of green-collar jobs, the sector provides an opportunity for low and unskilled workers to get a foothold in the job market. Last year, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband set out plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. He believes 200,000 green-collar jobs will be created across the UK by 2015. Globally, the sector is already worth an estimated £3 trillion.

Mr Cawley said: “A lot of work has been done in the U.S. about the potential for green-collar jobs to replace traditional manufacturing positions in places which have been hit hard by the recession, so I have tried to follow those models. Now the information needs to be utilised.”

Mr Cawley has already been in touch with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is interested in feeding his database of companies into online business network Build-up North Staffordshire.

Stuart Adams, managing director at Hanley-based Endeka Ceramics, pictured, believes green technology is already creating jobs in the area.

Endeka has created ThermECO glazes and clays, which allow ceramics manufacturers to fire products at much lower temperatures.

Mr Adams said: “It saves energy, reduces the company’s carbon footprint and gives them much better environmental credentials.”

Endeka has helped Tunstall hotelware manufacturer Dudson launch its new eco-friendly Evolution range.

Mr Adams said: “Without ThermECO, that wouldn’t exist. In terms of job creation we’re already starting to see Evolution take off.”

Keele University’s Project Green is open to newly-qualified graduates who are struggling to find work, and those who may have graduated a while ago and now face unemployment.

The programme, which has openings in June and September, includes study towards a post-graduate certificate in Sustainable Business Management and a paid work placement with a local business to tackle an environmental project

Crime and Punishment

You might recall that I wrote a few weeks ago of the case of a woman who came into the CAB where I volunteer over an issue of the council tax and housing benefit that she was receiving. It was a complex case and there were about 40 pages from the local Council detailing the twists and turns of the benefits that she was receiving. She was on her own had 3 children and worked part time in a low paid job. She had started last year on the national minimum wage of £5.84 and now earned £6.12 an hour. I said that there was an overpayment of £169 and that she was to visit the fraud office of the District Council later in the week.

I saw in the street over the weekend and asked her how she had got on expecting that it would be a chat and nothing more. I was shocked to hear that the Council were throwing the book at her. It was a hurried conversation but she said that the Council were seeking a possession order and that she would end up in the street. She was seeing the CAB in the week. She was very down. I was outraged.

I read in the Observer this weekend an article by Nick Cohen on the different perspectives of fraud that are taken when white collar crime is alleged. Cohen quotes an Ancient Greek writer ‘Laws are like spider webs, “They will catch the weak and the poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.”

“Steal 1,000 and they put you in prison. Steal 1 million and they put you in the House of Lords”

Cohen quotes Sir Ken Macdonald a former director of public prosecutions writing in the Times that Britain has become a country in which “no one has any confidence that fraud in the banks will be prosecuted as crime,” A country in which the law fills the prisons with “junkies, inadequate and the mentally damaged” rather than “the clever people who have done their best to steal our economy”.

A brief survey of white-collar prosecutions or, rather, lack of prosecutions, shows that he is right. Between 1998 and 2008 the number of defendants put on trial after Senior Fraud investigation fell from 42 a year to 25. The conviction rate also went down from 81% in 1998/9 to 68% in 2007/8.

This tendency is seen in the reporting of fraud cases in the local papers where benefit fraud cases are given massive publicity and white collar crime the extent of which dwarfs benefit fraud is overlooked.

It is not surprising.

During the winter Pits and Pots as well as the Sentinel reported the case of a Mr Allerton who defrauded the benefit system of £3,000. His case was commented upon because he was a scoutmaster. It made the front page of the Sentinel and shortly afterwards he resigned from the Scouts. Actually the Sentinels own comment page did receive a number of positive comments about Mr Allerton from people whose kids he had worked with in the Scouts Movement.

I wrote to the Sentinel although they did not publish the article pointing out the hypocrisy of the paper given that its owners avoid paying tax by basing a parent company in the Caribbean.

“I have no wish to defend the actions of Mr Allerton the benefit fraudster, but the prominence that the Sentinel gives to such cases and the lack of prominence that is given to other types of fraud is worthy of comment.
For example recently a businessman was jailed for carrying out a charity scam which resulted in a fraud of £700,000 although this fraud which dwarfs the wrongly claimed amount of Allerton’s of £3,000 by some way and yet the report of this larger fraud was tucked away inside the Sentinel

But there is a wider point that fraud permeates all forms of society its just more acceptable the wealthier you are.

For example there is no comparison in terms of costs between benefit fraud and tax fraud.

According to the DWP, intentional benefit fraud costs the UK taxpayer £800million a year. It’s rather more difficult to get an accurate figure on how much business fraud and tax avoidance of the very rich costs
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK estimates that abolishing the domicile rule would raise £4 billion a year
When we turn to corporations, rather than individuals, the figures get even more enormous.

The Guardian reported last year that a leading accountancy expert, Professor Prem Sikka, estimates that £25bn is lost to the Treasury each year through multinationals basing themselves in low-tax environments.

Rupert Murdoch’s main British holding firm paid no net corporation tax in the UK throughout the Nineties. Some companies are based off shore to avoid paying tax, yet still get subsidies from the British government.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is based in the Caribbean, yet Virgin Rail has had £500m in public subsidy over the past year.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that need not greed, motivates most cases of benefits fraud. This certainly can’t be said of the mega rich.
We could cut taxes for the average working person and increase the level of benefits if these tax loopholes were closed, but with business interests firmly in control of our politicians this isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

And of course the final report on MPs expenses that indicates a total amount of falsely claimed expenses of £1 million and a culture of dishonesty amongst half of all MPs suggests we cannot look to our legislators to address the problem of “white collar fraud”.

As to why there’s not more rage about the issue, well, it’s not very surprising that the press both locally and nationally doesn’t spend a lot of headlines on fraud perpetrated by big business it when the companies who own the papers are benefiting to the tune of millions of pounds a year.”

Can we expect the political classes to try to redress the grotesque imbalance in the administration of justice? I somehow doubt it. As the Byers case rather proves. The impact of this case I think will be profound on the political classes and continue to taint by association.

It rather reminded me of an anecdote told to me by a friend from the South Wales Valleys.

A friend of mine knew someone who got caught up in riots in Merthyr Tydfil in the early 80s. At the subsequent trial a character witness turned up to offer support. Unfortunately he chose to wear a tee shirt which had an explicit reference to a sexual act. The defence barrister turned to my friend’s acquaintance and in a Dickensian stage whisper said ” I fear your colleague has done for you” as it proved.

I feel that many parliamentary candidates of the established parties will be thinking the same about the involvement of Stephen Byers in the cash for lobbying scandal. Just as the sleaze and expenses scandal is dying down Byers and Co fan the flames.

The young woman and her overpayment of £169 are very small beer compared with the antics of others outlined above. But her case has stuck with me and yet again it illustrates a painful truth that authority bears down harder on the more vulnerable and overlooks the corrupt or at least questionable behaviour of the professional classes.

Bethel City Church – A Positive Light In Our City

Two things that should never be discussed, if you listen to the experts, are Politics and Religion.

Well, on this site Politics are dissected on a daily basis and as this site supposed to push the boundaries we thought we would do religion!

Recently, whilst we on this site have been busy networking with people through the medium that is ‘Twitter’, we had noticed a number of incredibly positive local people.

All of these people were tweeting about something called ‘BCC’ and after a bit of research we found out that this particular BCC was indeed  Bethel City Church located here in Stoke-on-Trent on Leek Rd, Abbey Hulton.

Bethel City Church

 Our interest was fuelled even more by a letter that was published in the Sentinel by the Lead Pastor James Galloway in response to a comment article by the excellent Martin Tideswell. (No relation to our own Tideswellman).

 Bethel City Church

Martin, it seems has had similar experiences to my own regarding religion and the occasions that I have needed to visit Church in the past few years [I’m a bit older than him – so it’s been mainly funerals!].

Bethel City Church are the force behind Love Stoke.org, a project that has won an ‘Our Heroes’ award.

This project does truly good work. They have a team of dedicated volunteers and they go out into the community and undertake a variety of work to improve and enhance life in the City of Stoke-on-Trent. They manage to get some major support from retailers and businesses in the City which helps with materials etc.

The Pits n Pots team decided to pay  Bethel City Church a visit and I can honestly say we received one of the warmest welcomes you could ever imagine.

The actual service was like none any of us had witnessed before.

There was no ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon or maudlin hymns. There was no reliance on the traditions of the past hundreds of years. There were no formal clothes and no penitence and blame.

What there was though, was an incredibly inspiring ‘preach’ by Pastor James Galloway that did not talk at you, but to you. The music was rock ‘n’ roll and the whole service was upbeat and lively , featuring something called the ‘Bethel Bounce’.(see video)

Christian church congregations are dwindling in numbers week by week. Church buildings are being left empty or turned into warehouses and the such like.

Bethel have managed to buck the trend – big time!

So,  is this the new face of religion that is fit for purpose for this day and age and for the needs of the modern day family?

Well, that’s for you to make your minds up about. But, whether you are religious, or have an interest or a dedication to a religion, what cannot be doubted is that this church and these people love this City and are committed to making a difference. They are reaching out into the City instead of waiting for the City to come to them.

Through the work that they do via lovestoke.org they are a positive identity in our City, and for that they deserve a huge amount of credit.

Watch the two part video that shows  Bethel City Church in full swing and listen what they have to say about their role in the City.

Bethel City Church

This article/video/photo’s were put together by the Pits n Pots team of Tideswellman, Mike Rawlins & Tony Walley.

The Wild West comes to Stoke- August 1891

William Cody better known as Buffalo Bill perhaps more than any other person helped to create the popular image of the Wild West. The “Wild West” with the stories of Indian attack and cowboy heroism was something that fascinated late Victorian society and Cody was in a good position to exploit that interest. Born in 1846 he had worked as a trapper, soldier, scout, and gold miner and Pony Express rider.

He also knew the leading characters of the West such as Wild Bill Hickcock, Sitting Bull and General George Armstrong. Cody used this experience to good effect and he began his Wild West Show in Omaha Nebraska in 1883.

Buffalo Bill bought his Wild West Show top the Potteries in August 1891 returning to the UK after initially touring the country as part of the American contribution to Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations four years earlier. The show was certainly an impressive undertaking and required 3 trains with a total of 76 carriages to bring the company and their equipment from its previous engagement in Sheffield. The show comprised of 250 performers, a few hundred horses and a score or so of bison. They also bought enough scaffolding and canvas to build a pavilion to seat 15,000 spectators. Local workers built the set in three days. An Indian village was also built to house the native Americans and their families.

Cody was keen to let people see the human side of the ferocious tribesman. Among the Indians who came to Stoke was Short Bull who was involved in the Ghost Dance Movement a religious movement amongst the natives which was bloodily suppressed at the “Battle” of Wounded Knee- in effect a massacre carried out the previous December. Short Bull had been released from prison in Illinois only a few months earlier so that he could go on the British tour.

A Sentinel reporter had the enviable job of speaking to the performers who had set up camp on the County Cricket Ground a site now occupied by Staffordshire Universities in College Road. He met with the manager of the tour Nate Salisbury who kept a photographic record of the tour and George C Crager a Lakotan interpreter who showed the reporter several “ghost shirts” that had been worn during the uprising. The shirts were tragically believed by the supporters of the movement to protect them from the bullets of the American soldiers.

As a footnote one of the shirts was left to the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow later in the tour and was the subject of some controversy in the 1990s when the Lakota tribe asked for the shirt back which the Museum dutifully returned.

But returning to the Potteries, Short Bull placed his war bonnet on the reporter’s head. The bonnet was made of eagle tail feathers and valued at £100- a large amount of money a century ago. The reporter offered one of the principal members of the Ghost Dance Movement and a friend of Sitting Bull a packet of cigarettes, which was accepted with great glee.

The show opened on Monday 17th August for 6 days with two shows during the day at 3 and 6pm. It was promoted as a show “unequalled in amusement annals”. I’m sure that the people of Stoke felt a thrill of anticipation at the prospect of having a little bit of the Wild West on their doorstep.


In animated tableaux and vivid scenes.

Truthful! Natural! Startlingly! Realistic!

Visit the picturesque Indian Village and Frontier Camp.

All performances daily at 3pm and 6pm.

Prices 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s.

Saturday 22nd August! Positively the last day!

The Sentinel reported on the first show. It rained although the weather improved as the week progressed ” the audience assembled in numbers large enough to crowd the popular parts of the stadia although with more favourable weather a better display might have been expected, the full programme was given and all seemed intensely delighted.

One of the stars of the show was the slight figure of Annie Oakley who achieved a certain immortality as the subject of the musical “Annie get your gun” many years later. Her shooting mightily impressed the crowds as did the antics of the cowboys and their “bucking broncos” There followed an Indian attack on the Deadwood Stage Coach. The show ended concluded with an attack on a Pioneer cabin. Earlier in the day the Indian village was visited by thousands of spectators. Buffalo Bill was wildly cheered at the end of the performance as he made his parting bow.

Buffalo Bill was unusual as he was away ahead of his time. He believed passionately in Native American rights and made sure that the Indians as well as the female performers were paid equally with the white male performers. He believed in the native culture when in the aftermath of the “ghost dance movement” many wished to see destroyed. He was not an arrogant, bloodthirsty Indian killer.

The 1890s were an age in which there was no television, no cgi and even film was in its infancy. Always alive to any opportunity to self promote Cody appeared in a picture towards the end of his life in 1912. The spectators in Stoke would have seen sights, sounds and smells of genuine Americana.

I had ancestors who lived in Stoke and Shelton (My great grand father was living in Ashford St). I feel that if they had attended the show they would have been awe-struck at the exotic vision before their eyes and they would have gone away satisfied and thrilled at this never to be repeated spectacle