Inside the Civic

Those who thought all out elections would bring some stability to our Council must be feeling embarrassed this week as Council Leader Mohammed Pervez took a scalpel to his cabinet, cutting out the disobedient Gratton and challenger Hill, and carving up the other portfolios in what is quite clearly more than the ‘tweaking’ he described it as.

The introduction of Platt and Dutton is seen as a nod to the left wingers in the group, who re-emerged in 2011 to rival the modernisers who were in danger of taking over Labour. Continue reading

Former Stoke-on-Trent Councillors Cleared of Wrongdoing

Former Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors Mark Davis and Hazel Lyth today welcomed the publication of the findings of a Stoke-on-Trent City Council investigation into their conduct which categorically cleared them of any wrong doing.

The allegations, which were made public by former Councillor Mike Barnes, centred on the relationship between Mr Davis and Ms Hazel Lyth and a company called PREM Management. It was alleged that both Mr Davis and Ms Lyth used their positions as city councillors to gain advantage for the company, and that they failed to publically declare interests in the firm.

After an investigation lasting over seven months, a committee of councillors and independent members has decided that neither Mr Davis nor Ms Lyth committed any breach of the council’s strict code of conduct. The investigation into the allegations involved extensive interviews, and research into the affairs of the company and was carried out by an independent legal officer of the City Council.

Mr Davis said

My honesty and integrity are massively important to me and I am very pleased that the Standards Committee have found me completely innocent of the allegations against me. Having this shadow hanging over me and my family for the last seven months has been very difficult and I am glad that the process has come to an end. Sadly, the whole thing was made a lot worse by the decision of a now former councillor to publish details of the confidential complaint on the internet.

Ms Lyth said

I am glad that the committee have finally cleared me and that I can move on with no stain on my character. The allegations against Mark and I were without foundation and I have maintained my innocence throughout the investigation. The damage inflicted by the unfounded accusations has taken a heavy toll on all innocent parties included in the complaint and lives, businesses and careers have been deeply affected. Whilst I appreciate that due diligence must take its’ course; it is sad that it has taken so many months to reach this conclusion and that Mark and I have had to suffer in silence, long after leaving the council.

It is understood that a separate investigation is being undertaken into former councillor Mike Barnes and his conduct in publicising the initial complaint.

This is a reposting of an article from 13 October that got lost in the server update

Tony Walley ““ On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox 23/02/11

Comment Article – Stoke-on-Trent Politics ““ A Game Show?

The recent story of the two city councillors that have been reported to the Standards Committee for allegedly failing to declare and interest in a local company, sparked off a very interesting debate.

Now I don’t want to get embroiled in the details of this particular issue all over again, but I think the wider debate regarding the protocol adopted when cabinet members are reported to Standards warrants further exploration.

It was suggested by a number of commentators that any cabinet member facing any allegation should stand down while the matter is investigated by the Standards Committee.

To my way of thinking this suggestion lacks political maturity and stinks of party political games on behalf of the politically disenfranchised party.

The mere suggestion of a cabinet member having to step aside just because someone happens to allege wrong doing shows that our city is still as fragmented as ever.

It matters not what the party is, it matters not who the politician is, to be forced to step aside and relinquish office until proof is found one way or another is wrong.

Many of our politicians locally rely on their council income to live on, indeed to some, their council remuneration is their only income. Why should they be forced to forgo their salary while some potentially scurrilous accusation is either proved or not.

Let’s not forget that it is not above some of the characters in the council chamber to dream up some accusation about their least favourite cabinet member just for the fun of seeing them under investigation and to be forced to step down at a personal cost whilst the due process uncovers there is no case to answer.

Of course, I do believe in the most rigorous forms of public and political scrutiny. I do believe that if someone who holds public office is found to have acted in a manner that does not befit the role of a councillor then they should feel the full weight of the Standards process and any punishment that they incur is as severe as the crime deserves.

Just look at the example of Roger Ibbs’s well documented case. He was forced to step down and forgo his salary for months while a police and then Standards inquiry took place. He was found completely innocent of all accusations. He never got reimbursed, no one from the council ever apologised, no one for the council ever enquired about his well being. To me it was an out and out disgrace the way that someone like Roger, who had served the city for over 30 years, was treated. The whole sorry episode was not one of our city’s proudest moments.

Whether we like it or not, our councillors are employees of the City and as such, in my opinion, they deserve the same protection as any other officer/employee of the council.

If an officer is under suspicion of wrong doing, he/she is suspended on full pay until such a time that they are found guilty or innocent. This should also be the case for serving councillors and cabinet members.

If any elected members are reported to standards, unless they have the same rights as all employees of the City Council, they should be allowed to continue on with their duties until such a time where the case can be determined or not.

During this most recent issue, there were calls for the councillors concerned to step down while the Standards investigation proceeds.

In most cases, Standards investigations can take months. What a great way for some parties and individuals to play to the gallery and remove someone that they are opposed to, just by whispering in the Standards Committee’s ear.

It’s about time that some of the politically disenfranchised in this city woke up and sniffed the coffee.

Do you really believe that progressive politics would be better served by asking for those who potentially, through no fault of their own, to step down while some unfounded dirty linen is washed in public?

Over the coming months, up until the local elections in May, I expect to see party political shenanigans in abundance. In fact I relish the prospect.

To me, the preliminary party banter is more entertainment than the main event, polling day itself.

I hope that every party/group publishes the runners and riders as soon as is humanly possible, so that we the interested public can get to know who is seeking to serve us.

We at Pits n Pots will be there to stick a microphone under every possible candidate’s nose at every available opportunity. We hope that every candidate will engage with the public through this site. Every party/group/candidate will be treated the same, with total respect.

I look forward to the fight and hope that every party and activist, group and member takes the debate to the public.

These are the biggest and most important elections in the history of Stoke-on-Trent.

Let the battle commence, fairly and with integrity of course……

Two City Councillors Reported To Standards

Two Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors have been reported to the Standards Committee following concerns over declarations of interest.

The allegations were made in an article on the Potteye website and concern Cllr Hazel Lyth and Cllr Mark Davis.

The article alleges that Cllr Lyth And Cllr Davis failed to declare an interest in a company called Prem Management.

Prem Management has undertaken some paid and unpaid work on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The article also alleges that the company is registered to an address in Stoke and claims that Cllr Lyth also uses the property as her home address.

Both Councillors concerned strongly deny any wrong doing and have confirmed that they will willingly take part in any Standards investigation.

The pair have stated that they are confident that they will be completely exonerated by any inquiry into the matter.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Politics ““ It’s a Dirty Job But Someone Has To Do It ““ Don’t They? Part 2

Ahead of last Thursday’s Full Council meeting I got the chance to interview Cllr Roy Naylor, until recently a full and active member of the City Independent Group, now non-aligned.

I have always been impressed by Roy, he’s a man of principle and not a harder working councillor can be found.

Roy dedicates his life to his Blurton ward and is committed to helping the residents of the area.

He has embraced new media and the people of Blurton are regularly updated on his activities through his impressive blog site, FaceBook and his informative Twitter feed.

The ward of Blurton used to be represented solely by members of the City Independent Group until the surprise election of Labour’s Margaret Barber this summer.

There is no doubt following my discussions with people who live in the area of Blurton that Roy is the man on the beat, which is understandable given his former Group Leader’s Cabinet responsibilities.

The duo complemented each other until their recent parting of the ways.

Cllr Roy Naylor was unceremoniously booted out of the City Independent Group for being in arrears with his council tax and the rent on his council home.

Roy doesn’t deny the claim, far from it, he openly admits to having financial problems. I myself have been aware of rumours surrounding Cllr Naylor’s financial predicament for some 12 months now.

Those rumours have been circulating around the corridors of the Civic Centre for even longer according to some sources.

So it really does beg the question, why expel him from the group now, after all this time? Other members of his group knew that Roy had difficulties, including Group Leader Cllr Brian Ward.

The answer may lie in the fact that just before his undignified expulsion; Roy informed his Group leader that it was intention to fight the election in the newly formed Blurton West & Newstead Ward, an area that he is both known and enormously well respected.

This has allegedly angered Cllr Ward who wants to fight the ward himself and sources have informed me that as Group Leader, he believes that the “Ëœpecking order’ allows him first choice.

Now, if as the CIG claim, that the reason that Roy was shown the door was down to his financial differences, why did his group not do their best to help their mate and valued group member out?

Cllr Randy Conteh has recently vacated the Police Authority Committee, a position that pays handsomely, why was Cllr Naylor not considered for this position? Surely the financial reward would have help his position greatly and would enable him to clear his arrears faster.

Cllr Naylor liaises with the police particularly well and has a great understanding of how the Police operate within our city.

So, who did replace Cllr Conteh on the Police Authority? Non other than CIG Group Leader, Cabinet Member and fellow ward Councillor Brian Ward. How much does all that earn Cllr Ward?

Over £33,000 per year. Not bad all things considered.

How much does Cllr Naylor now earn for holding the fort in the Blurton ward and working tirelessly for the residents of his ward?

Just over £11,000 per year.

I feel a little uncomfortable talking about another man’s finances, but do you know what? Not as uncomfortable as Cllr Ward should feel for disclosing a fellow councillors personal circumstances to the media.

A council source has informed me that the matter may be referred to the Standards Committee and that it doesn’t have to be Cllr Naylor that makes the initial report.

As the same source said to me on the phone this week, “Ëœwith friends and colleagues like that, who needs enemies’?

It has also been suggested to me that Cllr Naylor may well be priced out of fighting the next election due to the cost of mounting a campaign.

I have been assured by a number of sources that Roy will not be short of offers to help, or indeed of offers of membership to other groups.

Now that would be an interesting ““ top of the bill clash ““ between Roy and his former group leader Brian Ward.

Especially if the full weight of a mainstream party is behind the former CIG member. But that is just me speculating, although, I may just nip to the bookies to put a couple of quid on.

What isn’t speculation however is the rise and substantial fall of the City Independent Group.

Once the second biggest group in the chamber with some 16 councillors and now reduced to just 8 and 1 of those constantly rumoured to be on the move.

There are those in the city that champion Independent politicians/groups, but the present crop isn’t that independent when you consider that they are part of a 4 way ruling coalition.

There is no doubt that the CIG are in political melt down and with the election campaign season about to start more divisions could come to light.

As for Cllr Roy Naylor, I’m sure he will keep on doing what he does best and that is to passionately represent the area of Blurton and to continue to champion causes like the Save Our Children’s Centre campaign as the kind of true Independent we can all remember.

Where’s Ann James’s number…..

Cllr Dave Sutton Speaks Ahead Of Standards Hearing

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Dave Sutton has confirmed that he will accept the findings of the City Council Standards Committee Hearings Sub Committee which meets on 28th April to hear complaints made against him relating to an incident at a meeting of the Newshaw Walk residents’ association.

The Northwood & Birches Head councillor has also expressed his dissapointment for what he describes as a ‘rare drop in my own personal standards’.

Councillor Sutton said:

“I will be telling the hearing that I accept the findings of the Monitoring Officers report and wish to apologise if I have caused any distress to the complainants.

I do not wish to argue with the findings in the report. I have not been the subject of a standards complaint in the past and apologise for this rare drop in my own personal standards”.

The complaints are understood to be related to an incident at a resident association meeting which resulted in a complaint being made by the chairman which was supported by Eve Maley who lost out to Cllr Sutton by one vote at the 2008 local election.

Mrs Maley is contesting the upocoming election in the Northwood & Birches Head ward as an Independent candidate. She will be trying to defeat sitting councillor and current Lord Mayor Jean Bowers.

Conway calls for an inquiry into Ibbs arrest.

Leading Independent Councillor Dave Conway has today called for an independent inquiry into the arrest of fellow Councillor Roger Ibbs.

Cllr Ibbs was the first arrest of three centred around allegations of political corruption. Former Elected Mayor Mark Meredith was the second and local millionaire businessman Mo Chaudry was the third.

All three arrests made headline news locally but all three men faced no charges as the CPS claimed there was insufficient evidence to secure prosecution.

A later Standards Committee meeting accepted a report which completely exonerated Cllr Ibbs. This report also stated that Cllr Ibbs should have been classed as a victim rather than an accused.

Councillor Dave Conway has submitted a written motion to council officers which will be put to all 60 elected members at the next full council meeting on January 28.

Watch the video below, Cllr Conway explains his reasons..

Standards Committee Clears Ibbs!

A Standards Committee has today accepted a report which completely exonerates Cllr Roger Ibbs from any wrong doing during the investigation into the Dimensions fiasco.

The report provided the Committee with an opportunity to consider whether there any Standards issues remaining following the conclusion of the Staffordshire Police Investigation.

There had been a number of allegations concerning the proposed closure of the Council run splash pool facilty at Dimensions Leisure Centre, Burslem. The report also confirms that the original fact finding exercise had being extended to include the removal of Cllr Roger Ibbs from the portfolio holder for Regeneration in the then Elected Mayor’s Executive and Members’ Board.

In a statement released today, Mr Ibbs said:

“I am delighted that at today’s Standards Committee meeting my name has been totally cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the ongoing saga of the Dimensions Leisure Centre. On the 27th. February of this year I was arrested by Staffordshire Police in connection with enquiries regarding Dimensions and to date I have received no explanation as to why I was arrested. I was never charged with any offence and subsequent to the conclusion of the police enquiries no charges were ever suggested. I am pleased to have been recognised "AS A VCTIM" and that I should "NOT HAVE BEEN TAINTED" by events surrounding the Dimensions saga I have today written to the Chief Constable, Mike Cuthbertson, demanding to know why I was arrested when there was not a shred of evidence against me. I was one of the leading City Councillors opposing the partial closure of Dimensions and I would have been happy to co-operate with the police and answer any questions voluntarily. The torment I have faced over the last ten months and the considerable expense I have had to face clearing my name, I would not wish on anybody, particularly on the basis that I had done absolutely nothing wrong. I have also been extremely disappointed by the way several current and past senior officers within the City Council, have dealt with matters and trust that any future report or inquiry into the Dimensions saga will show up the inadequacies of performance. I will of course be more than happy to present evidence to such an inquiry.”

 

Standards report exonerates Ibbs.

A report to the Standards Committee which meet on the 9th December 2009 completely exonerates Cllr Roger Ibbs from any wrong doing during the investigation into the Dimensions fiasco.

The report is to provide the Committee with an opportunity to consider whether there any Standards issues remaining following the conclusion of the Staffordshire Police Investigation.

There had been a number of allegations concerning the proposed closure of the Council run splash pool facilty at Dimensions Leisure Centre, Burslem.

The report also confirms that the original fact finding exercise had being extended to include the removal of Cllr Roger Ibbs from the portfolio holder for Regeneration in the then Elected Mayor’s Executive and Members’ Board.

It also confirms that the interim Chief Executive, Chris Harman sanctioned the formal report be submitted to the Police in November 2008, on the advice of Head of Local Government, Mark Greenburgh.

Paragraph 3.8 of the report states:

Whilst it is not the purpose of this Committee to inquire into the details of the police investigation, it has been suggested that, had matters been referred to the police earlier than they were, Councillor Ibbs’ account of events would have been as a victim and potential witness, and would not have been tainted by the events that followed.

It also confirms that the reports findings will be discussed at a Full Council Meeting at some time in the near future. It says:

Should the Committee accept the analysis set out in this report and
agree that there are no specific Standards issues remaining to be dealt
with, it should also note that the wider implications of the whole chain
of events will be the subject of a report to all councillors at a
forthcoming meeting of the full City Council. This will look at the
broader picture of how organisational lessons might be learned from
the experience with a view to putting in place processes and
procedures aimed at preventing similar occurrences in future. The
outcome of the City Council’s deliberations will be reported to the
Committee at a future meeting

If, as expected, the Standards Committee accept the report, Cllr Ibbs will have the opportunity to address the council chamber and to express his thanks for his fellow councillors support. He will also seek to bring closure to what has been a distressing period in his life.

Talking to Pits’n’Pots today Cllr Ibbs Said:

"It would be improper of me to comment extensively in advance of the Standards Committee meeting. I will however be issuing a statement after that process has concluded"

"I know of the report and am aware of and welcome it’s contents".

"I would like to say that I fully appreciate the support given to me by my fellow councillors from all sides of the chamber and from people outside the council. To be honest, that is the only thing that has got me through one of the most terrible periods of my life".

Cllr Ibbs has been particularly critical of certain council officers’ conduct relating to this matter.

In previous interviews with us he hit out at an officer for inviting him to a spurious meeting and then leaving him at the mercy of two police officers. He has also been critical about the press departments and handling of the situation.

 

The full report can be read here.