Joan Walley MP on 25 years as an MP

Joan Walley will celebrate 25 years in June as the Member of Parliament for the Stoke-on-Trent North constituency.

She has witnessed the fall of Margaret Thatcher, the rise of New Labour and the coming together of the Coalition Government.

I spoke to the Labour MP about her life’s work

On June 11, 1987, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party were winning a third successive term in Government.

The same day Labour candidate Joan Walley was elected to serve the Stokeon-Trent North constituency and replace John Forrester who had served for 21 years himself. Continue reading

Local MP leads seafood campaigners to victory

Joan Walley MP has joined campaigners in welcoming the announcement that the Coalition Government has committed to using sustainable fish in all of its catering for , Whitehall, Government departments, prisons, and some parts of the armed forces ““ improving the meals of nearly 400,000 people.

Joan spearheaded a campaign in parliament to achieve these standards, having previously joined campaigners to highlight that fish served in Whitehall and Number 10 Downing Street had worse seafood sustainability standards than the cat food served to Number 10’s Larry the Cat, because leading pet food brands such as Whiska’s had already made the switch to sustainable fish.

”These new standards mean that for the first time, over £16 million of fish bought with taxpayers’ money every year will now be covered by compulsory sustainability standards. We have had to fight very hard to get these standards, but they would never have been introduced without Joan’s tireless support for the campaign”.

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.

Tony Walley ““ On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Parliamentary Boundary Changes – When 3 Become 2

I suppose it was to be expected that eventually, after decades out in the wilderness, the Conservatives would force Parliamentary Boundary changes upon the nation in a bid to make sure that they remain in power for a very long time to come.

The Tories now have the added pressure of protecting their yellow friends, the Liberal Democrats, who could become all but extinct when our nation has the chance of exacting revenge on Clegg and his cronies through the ballot box for their widespread treachery in accepting their 30 pieces of silver.

On 5th May 2011 [the same day as the all out council elections in Stoke-on-Trent] we the nation, get to vote on an Alternative Voting system which could spell the end of the “Ëœfirst past the post’ system for general elections.

The referendum on AV is a part of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill which also contains proposals for a review of parliamentary constituency boundaries.

The Bill has been approved by MPs and despite the best efforts of Labour’s Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who nearly succeeded in getting the bill deferred which would have resulted in the Bill missing it’s February 24 2011 deadline, the House of Lords voted in favour.

The Labour Party had promised a referendum on AV in their manifesto but have voted against the bill in protest at what they see as a rigging of the Parliamentary Boundaries in favour of the Tories.

The Bill proposes, amongst other things, a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. It also recommends that each seat has around 75000 constituents; a proposal which the Labour Party argue would cost them around 20 seats.

But what of the implications for the 3 Parliamentary seats for Stoke-on-Trent, Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent Central and Stoke-on-Trent South?

Talking to various sources in the know, there is a strong feeling that Stoke-on-Trent would lose a constituency, probably Central.

Stoke-on-Trent North would take in parts of the leafy suburbs of the Staffordshire Moorlands with a cut off around the Council ward of East Valley/Milton.

Stoke-on-Trent South would probably expand to take in the affluent parts of Staffordshire County Council, such as Stone, Hilderstone and Meir Heath and would end just after what is currently know as the Abbey Green council ward.

The net result is the City will almost definitely lose one Member of Parliament and the Labour Party will need to be at the top of their game and the polls to return the status quo of total domination of the Labour Party across the constituencies of our city.

The Labour party would probably insist that one of the two Stoke-on-Trent Constituencies be an all woman short list which leaves two candidates to fight it out for the other remaining nomination.

If that decision had to be taken now, despite his elevation to a senior post on the opposition benches, I feel that the party locally would opt for the charismatic Tristram Hunt as opposed to Rob Flello.

Talking to local party activists, I think that after the actions of Rob Flello post general election in the so called reorganisation of his office staff and the subsequent departure of senior, enormously well respected employees, Mr Flello’s popularity among his own is at an all time low.

In contrast to that, I understand that Tristram Hunt has built a great team in Stoke-on-Trent Central and that meetings are now enormously well attended and very interesting and engaging for party members.

I’m told there is little or no campaigning going on in Stoke-on-Trent South organised by Mr Flello’s team, whereas in Stoke-on-Trent Central Tristram and his team are out at every available opportunity knocking on doors and meeting the public and gauging their opinions.

So in summary, I liken the current situation to the pre championship fight build up between heavyweight boxers David Haye and Audley Harrison.

Both promised that the contest would be close with little between them.

In truth only one came out fighting, looked mean and lean and took the opportunity to stop his opponent at the earliest convenience.

The other had little to offer, never landed a telling blow and lost the support of his army of fans.

Enough said? I leave you to draw your own conclusions..

Rob Flello Seeks Clarification on Stoke-on-Trent BSF Funding

Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello quizzed Prime Minister David Cameron on whether Stoke-on-Trent will receive enough Building Schools for the Future funding to complete the construction of the planned secondary schools.

Mr Flello took the opportunity during yesterday’s [Wednesday] Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister will be aware that by 7 July the Education Secretary would have already understood the financial situation and the “state of the books”, as the Prime Minister is so keen to keep stating, so why on 7 July, in this House, did the Education Secretary say:

“One announcement that I was able to make on Monday was that Stoke-on-Trent, as a local authority that has reached financial close, will see all the schools under Building Schools for the Future rebuilt”

Is there some confusion between the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary?

The Prime Minister was in no mood to reassure the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South.

We were left a complete mess in terms of Building Schools for the Future. Here was a programme that took up three years and hundreds of millions of pounds before a single brick was laid. The cost of building those schools was twice what it should have been, so we have scrapped that programme and made available £15 billion for the next four years. That means that school building will be higher under this Government than it was under the Labour Government starting in 1997.

The recent announcement by Michael Gove that those school building schemes spared, are now facing cuts in funding of 40%, despite their being given the green light when he reduced Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in July.

This will effect some 600 and will realise potential savings of £6bn. The announcement now throws the building of the so called “sample schools” specifically given the thumbs up by the Department for Education back in August.

Just how this latest announcement will impact on Stoke-on-Trent remains unclear.

It may well throw the future of the Discovery Academy into doubt.

The controversial school was to be sited on the Willfield Community Centre location.

The Community Schools Action Group, who are campaigning for a school to be retained on the Mitchell High School site, will be watching developments very closely indeed.
Joan Walley MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has also raised the issue about BSF funding in Parliament today.

She called for an urgent debate on the issue and was met with a noncommittal response.

Ed Miliband Visits Stoke-on-Trent

Ed Miliband flew into The Potteries this afternoon for a question and answer session this afternoon organised by Stoke-on-Trent North Labour Party.

About a hundred members turned up to listen to his views on everything from gender balance in the shadow cabinet to Cameron’s diplomatic gaffe on Pakistan. But was he any good? Was he convincing?

His stump speech was framed in terms of the familiar nostrums. He ably ticked all the boxes: politics can make a difference … politics should be about more than management … Labour needs to listen more … the leadership election provides us with a blank page … etc.

Ed said Labour did some things in government we should be proud of, but it didn’t do enough. On the economy, he believed the party came too late to the idea of having an industrial policy. The experience of government had taught them markets alone cannot be left to create jobs because it never will in sufficient quantities, therefore the state has the responsibility to fill this gap. He also knew millions of working class people were turned off from Labour because of its chummy relationship with business. Ed acknowledged this was a less a relationship and more a case of business’s lording it over the party. In a New Labourish rehtorical flourish, he said if workers can expect fairness not favours from Labour, then it should be the same for business.

Warming to his theme, he thought New Labour was an overreaction to the 1980s. The managerial style, the centralised leadership under Blair and Brown, it was all top down. The new leadership must learn to listen to its members to avoid the heavy handed mistakes of the ancien regime. This means a proper party conference with serious debate, members’ input into policy making, and the inculcation of a sense that members have influence on the party’s direction. Part and parcel of this is rebuilding of the trade union movement. He said he was proud to be nominated by so many unions, but thought it was a real tragedy not enough people were in them. If he was voted leader he would work with the rest of the labour movement to make them more relevant.

The meeting then moved to questions. I won’t bore readers with the ins and outs of every query, but will stick to the main points.

On the coalition, he said when the Tories are in government, they behave as if they own the place. When Labour are in, they feel like squatters. But the situation now is different to the 80s. Back then Labour were relatively powerless to stop the Tories. But because Cameron governs in coalition, the LibDems are particularly vulnerable. Our job is to make them feel like an endangered species. They’ve got to feel as if deposing Nick Clegg is the only way to save themselves from electoral oblivion. If we are successful in keeping up this pressure, the coalition will fall.

On parliamentary selection (obviously a controversial issue in Stoke), because it demotivates members and can drive them out of the party, he was asked if he would give an undertaking to stop the imposition of candidates by the central party? Ed replied the impositions happened because the ‘special rule’ period had been applied for longer than usual. To avoid this happening again, CLPs need to select their candidates earlier. If MPs are going to step down, they owe their CLPs the courtesy to give them plenty of time to organise a selection process.

On the deficit, the questioner felt the Tories had enjoyed a free ride at the despatch box and they were using the debt to railroad though an ideologically-driven cuts agenda. Ed replied that when the Tories have completed their spending review in the autumn we have to be ready with an alternative to their draconian cuts. We have to challenge them on their rewrite of history: this was a crisis of the banking sector and not the public sector.

On foreign policy, though he avoided direct discussion of Iraq, Ed said that under Blair New Labour mistook the alliance with the USA as the need to agree with Bush’s on everything. Britain needs to disagree with America when necessary, and also be more willing to criticise Israel for its actions (in fact, he went as far to say Britain and the EU should not upgrade its relations with Israel (whatever that means) until it has made real progress on Gaza).

As a trade unionist I was particularly interested to hear his opinions on workplace rights. I got the impression from elsewhere that Ed more or less supported the status quo. If he did hold this position, then he’s recently moved on it. He believed all industrial legislation needs to be reviewed: he thought the labyrinthine rules on strike ballots were utterly absurd. He was also for union access to workplaces as of right, a strengthening of rules on unfair dismissal and redundancy, and get away from how the rest of the world views Britain: as a country that hires and fires in cavalier fashion.

Ed was fully in favour of Young Labour having more independence and the right to take its own positions on things. This is necessary if we are to build a culture where the party can trust itself, and a movement fully in touch with the concerns and struggles outside of parliament.

This meeting pleasantly surprised me. In contrast to gloomy comment on other blogs, I thought Ed Miliband’s stall was solidly labourist. For example, whereas Ed Balls combines a Keynesian orientation to the economy with a near-Powellite view on immigration, Ed Miliband eloquently argued that immigration was a lightning rod for discontent. An economic programme that places jobs and house building at the core of a coherent industrial strategy would undermine the antipathy large sections of Labour voters feel toward immigrant workers. Sure, it’s not the solidly socialist programme some demand as the condition for taking out Labour membership, but it’s a clear social democratic break with the Third Way/neoliberal claptrap that went before.

Speaking to various folk afterwards, more than a few members said it reaffirmed their decisions to back Ed. It’s fair to say he picked up some converts too. Speaking to a local leading trade unionist, he said if Ed Miliband won his (sizable) branch would join the party en masse. Of course, they should join now to help make sure he does. And again, the atmosphere was convivial, friendly, and there was plenty of time after for socialising.

Whether one supports him or not, if Ed Miliband wins the leadership contest Labour will be a more interesting, more gratifying place to be. Why not come aboard?

MP Acts To Address “ËœBog’ Standards Of Public Sector Food

Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, today launched a campaign for legally binding standards to improve public sector food after it was revealed that whilst toilet paper bought for Government departments has to meet mandatory standards food served in hospitals, care homes and the armed forces does not.

The public sector has introduced much needed mandatory sustainability standards into its procurement policies but food standards have been left on the shelf. In June, the MP introduced a new Bill to Parliament that would require government to draw up health, environmental and ethical standards for public sector food in the same way as they have been introduced for other goods bought by government, such as toilet paper.

Introducing these standards would improve the food by, for example, requiring public institutions to buy more food produced to environmental standards, and food that is lower in salt and saturated fat. They would encourage public institutions to buy higher welfare animal products and exclude endangered fish. The standards would also ensure that public sector institutions treat their suppliers fairly ““ at home and abroad.

Last week, Joan tabled a Parliamentary motion, which will be signed by MPs who support her Bill. She said:

“While I very much welcome the fact that Government departments can only buy toilet paper which meets clear sustainability standards, I am very concerned that the food we buy in our hospitals, care homes and armed forces is not required to meet any standards whatsoever. The taxpayer pays £2 billion every year for food served in public sector institutions and it is imperative that mandatory standards are introduced so that we know it is good for our health, supports the environment and invests in the best of British produce.”

Joan is working with the Good Food for Our Money campaign to build support for the Public Bodies Sustainable Food Bill, which has the support of more than fifty top health, environmental, farming and business organisations.

Election Special: Joan Walley Labour PPC for Stoke-on-Trent North

For the first time in this the 2010 General Election Campaign, we managed to catch up with Joan Walley the sitting Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North.

Joan was incredibly busy and when I visited her at home she was a little late, breezing in with an air of determined commitment.

She ordered a quick chicken sarnie and we settled down to record the interview.

Phones were ringing and the doorbell was sounding with people arriving to help post leaflets, it was a hive of activity.

It is said that she is the safest of the three Labour MPs, but you wouldn’t get that impression. Joan Walley is taking nothing, especially the electorate of Stoke-on-Trent North for granted.

Watch the videos below:

Stoke-on-Trent General Election 2010 The Candidates

The nominations for the General Election closed at 1600 this evening and here is the final list of candidates for the 3 constituencies in Stoke-on-Trent.

Stoke-on-Trent North

Melanie Jane BADDELEY – British National Party

John Malcolm FISHER – Liberal Democrats

Andy LARGE – The Conservative Party Candidate

Geoffrey Lewis Edward LOCKE – UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Joan Lorraine WALLEY – The Labour Party Candidate

Stoke-on-Trent Central

Norsheen BHATTI – The Conservative Party Candidate

Paul Derrick BREEZE – Independent

Simon DARBY – British National Party

Gary ELSBY

Tristram HUNT – The Labour Party Candidate

Carol LOVATT – United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

John Phillip REDFERN – Liberal Democrats

Alby WALKER – Independent

Brian WARD – City Independent

Matt WRIGHT – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Stoke-on-Trent South

Zulfiqar ALI – Liberal Democrats

Mark Harry BARLOW – UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Mark BREEZE – Independent

Michael COLEMAN – British National Party

Rob FLELLO – The Labour Party Candidate

Terry FOLLOWS – Staffordshire Independent Group

James Stuart RUSHTON – The Conservative Party Candidate