Stoke-n-Trent’s Newest Political Party “ËœCommunity Voice’ Launch

Stoke-on-Trent has a new political party ““ Community Voice.

Oh no! Not another one, some may say. Well this is an amalgamation of 2 existing groups, the Non-Aligned and The Potteries Alliance. So the net result is one group less in the council chamber.

Community Voice officially launched yesterday [Tuesday]. There were a number of people present including media, members of the public and former Labour Party members maybe looking for a new home.

The city’s latest political party will be represented in the chamber by 5 sitting councillors, Mick Salih, Peter Kent-Baguley, Mike Barnes, Pauline Joynson and Janine Bridges. They will instantly become the fourth largest group on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Community Voice’s main priority will be to scrutinise every decision made by the council’s ruling coalition led by the Labour Group and assisted by the Conservative & Independent Alliance, the Liberal Democrats and The City Independent Group, who between them have 47 of the 60 seats.

At next years “Ëœall out’ council elections, Community Voice is hoping to contest many of the 44 post Boundary Committee Review wards. They will target existing community activists who are currently serving their communities as volunteers.

The new kids in town have already commissioned a party website and adopted a new logo. They have published a draft policy document and set out their core aims and values.

The new party are claiming that they have a large number of people outside the council chamber who have expressed a desire to join.

There is no doubt that all five of this merry band of councillors are committed to making a difference. They set out their priorities at the launch and each spoke passionately about serving the communities that elected them before their duties in the council chamber. That said, they re-iterated commitment to the Overview & Scrutiny process.

The new group will also campaign to rid the city of the Leadership and Cabinet system of governance in favour of the “ËœEnhanced Committee’ model

Listen to the Audio Interview with Cllr Mick Salih below.

Watch the videos of the Community Voice members addressing the attendees at the official launch.

Community Voice Draft Policy Document

Stoke-on-Trent’s newest political party Community Voice is proud to release our Draft Policy Document,in keeping with our ethos of openness and transparency.

Should anyone wish to join our group, there is an application form available on our website. There will be a Community Voice meeting next Tuesday 3rd August in the Council Chamber which is open to the public.

All our Policies here are in Draft form ready for our Policy Conference in October 2010.
These are initial thoughts and areas to cover which will be detail at our conference as well as adding a more comprehensive list of policies cover many different additional areas.

Adult Social Care

Community Voice spokeswoman: Pauline Joynson

Providing quality social care for adults and older people, giving them dignity and independence, is one of the great challenges of our generation, but one that must not just be left to private business to supply.
Community Voice’s commitment is to:
*keep city council care provision within the council and resist privatisation
*improve provision for older people and their carers dealing with dementia and other similar or relate health issues
*monitor, scrutinise and hold to account all care providers to improve and maintain high standards
*make sure all services provided by the council take into account the needs of elderly and disabled adults

Children and Young People

Community Voice spokeswoman: Janine Bridges

Top quality education as well as proper protection for those at risk or in local authority care are vital to the future success of our city.
Everybody deserves the opportunity of an education that gives them the chance to fulfil their full potential.
All children should be safe from harm and given a loving, warm caring environment in which to grow up.

Community Voice commits to:
*campaign against proposals for school Academies
scrap selective education
*make sure schools are at the centre of their communities through community and dual use of resources
*close large children’s care homes and provide care in small “family” size homes.
*invest in social workers and their support

Democracy
Community Voice Spokesman: Mike Barnes

Democracy is fundamental to our beliefs and organisation.
This is embedded in our Principles and Constitution:

“Democracy ““ We endeavour to embed democracy, openness, honesty, transparency and accountability at our core within our party, as well as in the wider community and society. This shall be laid out in our policy document entitled “Democracy”.”

This policy shall be laid out in detail at our Policy Conference in October 2010.

Key Objectives for Community Voice are:
*Replacing the Cabinet System in the Council with an Enhanced Committee System, giving people more say and accountability to the important decisions that affect their lives.
*All Quangos should be subject to democratic and accountable processes. For example, bring health bodies under the Local Authority, scrapping the NSRP, LSP etc
*Scrapping Area Implementation Teams and replacing them with Neighbourhood Committees or Councils to give people a real say in their own neighbourhoods, streets and communities.
*Giving residents the power of recall over all their elected representatives were wrongdoing has been proven.
*Making all public bodies open and transparent, improving the response to FOIs
*Strengthening Scrutiny powers and giving more powers to local people to scrutinise decisions
*Campaign for Senior Officials in Public Office to be prosecuted where serious maladministration is proven or where the public or elected representatives have been misled.

Housing
Community Voice spokesman: Mike Barnes

Housing is a key indicator of society’s commitment to social justice ““ homelessness should not be tolerated in a modern caring city.
Everybody should be entitled to a warm, dry, safe place to live in, to bring up a family ore retire in.

Our commitment is to:
*campaign to get councils to start building homes
restore all public social housing to local authority, democratic control with consistent standards and allocations policies
*restore the apprentice schemes in the council
resist any proposals to “sell off” our council housing
give residents more say in how their rent is spent on their homes

Resources, Finance & Budget
Community Voice Spokesman: Peter Kent Baguley

Every penny counts these days as the squeeze is put on public spending. We all know that the City Council has to make savings, but these should be measured and appropriate.

Community Voice Commitments shall be to:

*Constructively participate in the council budget process and service cuts
*Provide an alternative budget if necessary
*Slash the use of unnecessary consultants current used to excess by the council
*Keep public services public ““ delivered in the interests of the customer not for the profits of shareholders
expose waste, fraud, misinformation and mismanagement within the council and make those responsible accountable.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Community Voice please visit our website below.

Community Voice – A New Political Party For The Electorate In Stoke-on-Trent

At last Community Voice launches as a new political force ““both in Stoke-on-Trent City Council and in communities all around Stoke-on-Trent.

Our logo represent six town, six communities working together for the benefit of all. Six different colours showing that diversity is no barrier to working together.

5 councillors and 22 members all in the space of 7 days, with many more expressions of interest.
Our movement has been born out of the void left by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Coalition and a leadership vacuum with no new ideas and no clear policies.

We are not an opposition but a new alternative.

We start with four simple but clear principles:

Community

Our primary principle that overrides all others is to support and represent the communities we live in or elected by, without interference from party or a party whip in any way.

Democracy

We endeavour to embed democracy, openness, honesty, transparency and accountability at our core within our party, as well as in the wider community and society. This shall be laid out in our policy document entitled “Democracy”.

Equality and Social Democracy

We commit to the principle that all people are equal without any form of discrimination, as well as the rights of all to receive support and services to live freely within their communities, without fear or poverty, minimising ill health and with the opportunity to fulfil their true potential.

Public Services

Public Services provided by government, locally, regionally and nationally, and services essential for living in modern society should be in the hands of the customers they serve, and subject to democracy and accountability to those customers. We are opposed to quangos in any shape or form and shall work to secure decisions about public services to democratic control and accountability.

These principles and the policy statements lay the foundation of an embryonic organisation, that will give great opportunity for every single one of its members to shape its future and what it stands for at our planned policy conference in October 2010.

Community Voice is new kind of politics for Stoke-on-Trent:

One that puts community first, before party loyalties or orders ““ embedded in our constitution.
One that respects individual members views
One that utilises our collective strength when we agree a way forward that well thought out policies through open debate.

One that is open and transparent with regular open meetings and minutes published on our website
The real Alternative to the Coalition
The five councillors, Salih, Joynson, Kent-Baguley, Bridges, Barnes, that have come together are well recognise for their abilities to question and scrutinise, as well as the determination to seek the truth and expose council secrecy and mismanagement.

They will build on their success in community campaigns that have made a real difference to the communities they represent and the City as a whole -getting rid of the Elect Mayor System, the Tunstall Northern Bypass, exposing the Britannia Stadium Sale Secrecy, exposing the vast amount spent on consultants”¦”¦”¦”¦

Stoke-on-Trent’s Political Landscape Has A Change On The Horizon

Stoke-on-Trent is often described as ‘politically fragmented’.

In fact certain academic political commentators practically drool at the prospect that the city’s political structure is ‘broken’.

I have lost count at the many times that I have read, or been told by the great and the good that our city councillors lack quality and political acumen.

We currently have 9 political groups registered and represented in the council chamber. We are constantly told that this is a bad, bad thing.

Well we recently had a visit from the ‘Gossip Goblin’ to the Pits n Pots HQ. The good goblin told us that our city is about to get another political group, but not one like any other.

It would appear that this new group will be made up of councillors and former party activists that will put the communities that they represent as their number one priority.

Indeed it would seem that they see themselves as the voice of the communities.

They will have policies that are agreed by the majority but spurn the idea of a party whip as they would spurn a rabid dog.

Their policies, the Gossip Goblin told us, will have a strong socialist element to them. They are 100% committed to the delivery of top quality public services.

The new group feel that they have no alternative but to come together and scrutinise the Council Leader, his cabinet and the officer core. They feel that Stoke-on-Trent has been left with a political vacuum caused by the main parties entering into a coalition with the City Independents, thus robbing the electorate of a party that has got their backs.

The Gossip Goblin warned us that there will be collateral damage caused to the council chamber with the formation of this new political group. There are rumours that a number of councillors sitting in all groups who are despondent with the coalition policies, are waiting to join forces with this new band of merry men and women.

The launch of this new ‘people first – party’s second’ group is only a short time away and as more details emerge, or in the event of a further visit from the Gossip Goblin, we will be first to bring you the latest developments…..

A View Of The Future Direction Of The BNP From A Stoke-on-Trent Member

Craig Pond is a Stoke-on-Trent native, a member of the BNP and the Chairman of the Potteries Community Federation.

He is always outspoken, often berated, described by many as offensive, but NEVER ducks a question.

Today [Monday] whilst gauging reaction to the news that the Deputy Chairman of the British National Party [BNP] had resigned, I spoke to Mr Pond.

He gave his views on Simon Darby’s resignation and a whole load of other BNP related topics, including the need for Leader Nick Griffin to go now.

Craig hits out at the effect of immigration on the country and economy. He questions the estimated number of illegals in the country and is fearful at the birth rate among Muslim communities.

During the Audio Interview Craig hit out at the comments made by Stoke BNP Leader Cllr Mike Coleman that ethnic minorities should be allowed to follow the religion of their choice and should be able to retain the cultural identity within their own communities.

If you have not listened to the Mike Coleman interview, there is a link to the relative article in which it is contained.

The Audio Interview is available below and contains strong language and views that some people may find offensive. Please do not listen to the interview if you are at all concerned.

What the interview does highlight is the potential clash between grass root BNP members and those within the party who want to portray their politics in a more progressively moderate way.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council ““ Now There’s A Real Coalition

Mohammed Pervez, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, explains how four political groups are working together to deliver ‘a well-run and responsible local authority’ – Writes The Public Servant’s Dean Carroll.

Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez said:

Say the word “politics” to most people in the country these days, and the word that immediately springs to mind in reply is “coalition”. That is true for the national picture and for Stoke-on-Trent as well. Where our city differs from the alliance between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Downing Street, is that there is now a coalition of four political groups forming a majority within the city council.

The Labour group, Conservative and Independent Alliance, Liberal Democrats and City Independent Group all hold positions on my new cabinet. This coalition was formed to ensure continuity and stability at the council, as well as effective leadership. Last year was our first twelve months after reintroducing the Leader and Cabinet system of governance after having an Elected Mayor. We needed to make sure that what foundations had been laid weren’t washed away. This has meant forming a historic partnership between the four groups.

The Labour group was given a mandate by the electorate, but not an overall majority within the council chamber. We realise the most effective way to address everything from regeneration to education within the city is to work together with other political groups. That is not to say that the road ahead will not be difficult, but any squabbles we may have between us now need to be set aside.

We need to show we are not shying away from the responsibility of running the city and are willing to provide strong leadership to the city council in difficult times. The coalition is a way of ensuring that all the main political groups in this city work together for the good of Stoke-on-Trent. As the largest group, but lacking an overall majority, it would have been irresponsible to try and exclude them.

This coalition brings together and experience and talent from a wealth of backgrounds that we can use for the good of Stoke-on-Trent. I will be working closely with my deputy, Councillor Ross Irving, who has had the benefit of leading the council in the last 12 months, and well as Councillors Brian Ward and Kieron Clarke who have both held cabinet positions. This ensures good continuity, and also shows that we have a good dialogue between all parties to make decisions quickly and efficiently. I will also be working closely with our Chief Executive, John van de Laarschot, as will the rest of the coalition leaders, to ensure we have an effective council.

It’s true Stoke-on-Trent has suffered on many fronts over the years. We need to put that right. The national government talks about “new politics”. In Stoke-on-Trent our “new politics” will consist of strong leadership and partnership working, to be able to make decisions for the good of the city, and to show the electorate that we are listening to, and acting on, what they want from a well-run and responsible local authority.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council – From Inside The Chamber, Annual Council Meeting Part 2

Part 2 – Pervez Becomes Council Leader.

In direct contrast to the pantomime of last year’s Stoke-on-Trent Annual Council meeting, a new Council Leader was elected with no fuss what so ever. Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez was appointed Council Leader having previously served as Deputy Elected Mayor under the old system of governance. Pervez was proposed by the current Council Leader Ross Irving [CIA]. Cllr Irving said there was no one more surprised than him when he ended up as council leader last year but this year it was only right and proper that Pervez became Council Leader following the Labour Party’s outstanding success at the recent local elections.

He said that he was happy to be a part of a new coalition arrangement and that he felt that he could work well with Pervez. Cllr Tom Reynolds [Lab] seconded the proposal to appoint Pervez as Council Leader. He said that the Labour Group were surprised at how well the party had done in taking 17 out of 20 seats at the recent elections. He said that the Labour Group were looking forward to working with their coalition partners to deliver the best services they could provide in the difficult year ahead. The motion to appoint Pervez as Council Leader was carried. There were some abstentions mainly from the BNP and non-aligned councillors.

In response Cllr Pervez said that he was delighted to be Council Leader and he thanked the chamber for their support. He said that the 4 party coalition agreement was a historic moment for Stoke-on-Trent City Council. He said that the coalition partners would put aside their party politics for the greater good of the city and that they would work together to provide the best services possible. He informed members that being the Council Leader or serving in the Cabinet was not about being popular, it was about getting the job done.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley congratulated Pervez on becoming the new council leader. He said he wanted to send a note of caution to the quadruple coalition and that was with the small amount of opposition councillors they would need to be more vigilant in their pursuit of effective scrutiny. He also encouraged coalition party members to question decisions and not just to accept what the Cabinet propose in a tribalist way. He said in questioning decisions they were not being disloyal to their parties. He also took a sideswipe at the national coalition government for considering freezing Council Tax rises. He said that if this succeeded it would prevent local councils from raising much needed revenue. He agreed that there would be some cuts, but he urged all councillors to engage in some free thinking and not to accept every cut lying down.

Cllr Mick Salih paid tribute to the Labour Group for taking the political responsibility their election performance had afforded them. He said that it was right that they took the lead in any coalition agreement. He urged the coalition to not cut ward funding as councillors had been able to buy in services for young people that provided activities that had helped to reduce incident of Anti-Social Behaviour across the city.

  • Pervez then revealed the councillors that are to serve in his Cabinet, they are: Councillor Mohammed Pervez (Labour) – Council leader
  • Councillor Ross Irving (Conservative and Independent Alliance) – Deputy leader and community safety, partnerships and LSP (Local Strategic Partnership) Councillor Tom Reynolds (Labour) – Communications and community engagement
  • Councillor Debra Gratton (Labour) – Children’s Services
  • Councillor Hazel Lyth (Conservative and Independent Alliance) – Adult social care, sport, leisure and culture
  • Councillor Mervyn Smith (Labour) – Regeneration, economic development and jobs (city development)
  • Councillor Brian Ward (City Independents) – Housing, planning and transportation
  • Councillor Terry Follows (City Independents) – Environment, waste management and neighbourhood services
  • Councillor Sarah Hill (Labour) – Transformation
  • Councillor Kieran Clarke (Liberal Democrats) – Resources.

The meeting was then formally brought to a close by the New Lord Mayor and Chair of the City Council, Cllr Denver Tolley. The only remaining business of the day was the appointment of the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the various committees of the City Council. The appointments are as follows:

Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee
Chair – Roy Naylor
Vice chair – Mike Barnes

Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Mark Davis
Vice chair – Melanie Baddeley

Economic Development and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – Adrian Knapper
Vice chair – Roy Naylor

Adults and Older People’s Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Jean Bowers
Vice chair – Jean Edwards

Improving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – Dave Conway
Vice chair – Gwen Hassall

Transformation and Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Joy Garner
Vice chair – Dave Sutton

Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – John Daniels
Vice chair – Amjid Wazir

Chairs and vice-chairs of regulatory committees are as follows:

Administration and Appeals Committee
Chair – Mick Salih
Vice chair – Megan Ryan

Audit Committee

Chair – Mike Coleman
Vice chair – Olwen Hamer

Development Management Committee
Chair – Paul Shotton
Vice chair – Terry Follows

Human Resources Committee

Chair – Bagh Ali
Vice chair – Margaret Barber

Licensing and Consumer Protection Committee

Chair – Joanne Powell-Beckett
Vice chair – Majid Khan

Mitchell Memorial Youth Centre Committee

Chair – Jeremy Dillon
Vice chair – Hazel Lyth

Have Labour Got The Guts To Go It Alone?

Everyone seems to believe that a deal has already been done to form a coalition of the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Independent Groups to run Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Although Labour are thrilled to have increased their numbers on the council they actually gained more than they thought and it has given them a big headache.

The last thing in the world they want is to be in sole control of the council because they know that savage cuts are bound to be imposed. Firstly the council have to find many millions just to stay on course for the present budget because the easy options were made for this years budget. They know the real pain is to come next year and the year after. Secondly because of the disastrous financial position of the country any new government is bound to put the squeeze on local government and make even more savings inevitable.

For these reasons Labour need other parties involved in the running of the council so that it is not them alone who are blamed for the cuts. I therefore believe that offering a coalition is not an olive branch but an act of attempted self preservation because of the all out elections next year.

The real question is will it happen?

If Labour, because of their numbers, only offer a few members of cabinet to the others it will not be acceptable.

Will the Conservatives accept only 1 or 2 members having been in “Ëœcontrol’ for the last 12 months.

Will the Lib Dems still accept only 1 member and in charge of the finances when they will then be blamed for cuts to come.

Will the Independents be happy to accept less than their present 3 members (4 originally with Ian Mitchell).

Will Labour find places for Paul, Mark, Tom, Merv, Adrian, Debra, Joy, etc.

If one of the “Ëœpolitical’ groups decides not to take part in the coalition then will the others play ““ I don’t think so. I cannot see a Labour/Con or a Labour/Lib Dem or Labour/independent coalition without the others.

Will Labour locally offer enough places in cabinet to bring the 3 other groups on board ““ I think not.

In a game of cards you can only play the hand you’ve got.

I believe that the idea of a “Ëœrainbow coalition’ will not happen.

As I started ““ HAVE LABOUR GOT THE GUTS TO GO IT ALONE ?

Group Leaders Interviews RE: Coalition Agreement

Following the news that Stoke-on-Trent is set to be run by a 4-party coalition, we are pleased to bring you some exclusive Audio Interviews with the group leaders concerned.

Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem], Brian Ward [City Independents] and Mike Barnes on behalf of one of the parties likely to be in opposition, the Non-Aligned Group, all give their thoughts on this pioneering move to share the responsibility for the running of the council in what is thought to be one of the most difficult periods in the Councils history.

Listen to the Audio Interviews below…