City Farm: A Tale of Council Failure

If Stoke-on-Trent City Farm in Bucknall had been an animal, the RSPCA would have turned up long ago, taken it into care, and prosecuted its owner for cruelty and neglect.

Don’t get me wrong, the staff at the farm have been excellent, both in looking after the animals and welcoming visitors to the facility. Thousands upon thousands of children, parents and grandparents have enjoyed this popular visitor attraction over many, many years.

In the summer of 2010 a national newspaper, The Guardian, placed it in their top 10 places to visit with children, describing it as a “gem”. Here what it had to say:

Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too.

The Council Leader, Pervez, would have us believe that its closure is down to the governments severe cuts in finance. Anybody that has observed or been involved in recent years with the City Farm will know that its demise is at best a case of indifferent carelessness, or at worst a deliberate, lengthy painful cull ““ starved until it could survive no more.

Regeneration has been a top priority within Stoke-on-Trent with varying degrees of success and failure. However, this obsession with regeneration must not blind us nor lead us to neglect the treasures we already possess.

Take a good look around our neighborhoods, our towns and our City. Long gone is that smokey, choking caldron of industry. In its place greenery, open spaces and our majestic plethora of Victorian Parks. Shouldn’t this be at the very core of our regeneration efforts, instead of being seen as an expensive and not needed luxury?

Far too much of the momentum for regeneration in Stoke-on-Trent is based on “demolish the past ““ build the new”. Surely good sustainable regeneration is about taking what best from the past and putting it to a sustainable, modern, relevant purpose.

In early 2008 City Farm was threatened with Closure ““ the Save Dimensions campaign was gaining strength.

A Friends of the Farm group was set up ““ a new one every year since ““ and the ward councillors paid for a consultants report to establish a sunstainable way forward for the City Farm.

In 2008 £10k from the ward budget of Cllr Adrian Knapper, Rita Dale and John Davis employed consultants from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to come up with recommendations aimed at keeping the facility open, enhancing it and making it a viable sustainable enterprise.

Yet this expensive and valuable report went nowhere.

Two draft reports meant for Mark Meredith’s EMB, with current Cabinet member Debra Gratton’s name on them, were blocked and never saw the light of day. The ward councillors appear to have forgotten about the report.

In essence, City Farm should have and could have been put on the road to self sustainability, and keep well out of the way of this year’s unfortunate cuts.

Instead it has now closed.

Our strategic management of this park and farm appears to have been non-existent ““ the only thing they have tried to do from an officer perspective is either close it or move it.

City Farm is not closing because of the Coalition Government cuts. It is not closing because the council has got to make savings. It is not closing because of lack of visitors or poor staffing.

It is closing because Council management have wanted it shut for years, and the three ward councillors FAILED to follow up on their initial investment of £10,000 on a consultants report. Public they spent and then wasted.

Pervez and many of his Cabinet were in senior positions in 2008 and since that should have and could have preserved the City Farm ““ so stop blaming the Coalition Government.

For me the blame clearly lies with the three ward councillors ““ Knapper, Dale, J. Davis ““ Pervez (Deputy Elected Mayor in 2008) and Debra Gratton.

Stoke-on-Trent – In A Nutshell?

The Guardian feature Stoke-on-Trent in the latest article in their series ‘Where Else Can I Go’.

The article makes interesting reading, especially to those who live outside of our city.

But what about those who live in the Potteries and surrounding areas? What do we make of the facts listed in the article?

Where else can I go? – The Guardian

What they said about Stoke-on-Trent

”Despite going through some of the most difficult times in the history of this council our staff continue to work hard for the people of this city and we are eager for that to carry on.”

”Charles Dickens once described Stoke as ‘a picturesque heap of houses, kilns, smoke, wharfs, canals and river lying as was most appropriate, in a basin,”

Population District


Local politics,strong/>

Stoke-on-Trent city council is a unitary authority with no overall control, led by Labour as a four-party coalition.

MPs Three, all Labour.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South); Joan Walley (North) and TV historian Tristram Hunt (Central).

Local authority

The council “performs adequately” but does not deliver consistent value for money. Teenage pregnancy rates are among the highest in England. The different political groups on the council make it more difficult for the council to conduct its business smoothly. Adult social services are “performing well.” Children’s services perform “adequately”.

Job prospects

The council wants to shed 700 jobs. Priority for applying for any vacancies is going to staff on the “at risk” list.

Health service

University hospital of North Staffordshire NHS trust runs North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, the City General and the Central outpatients hospitals. A new £370m hospital on the City General site is due to open next year. North Staffordshire combined NHS healthcare trust, the mental health and learning disability trust, runs Harplands hospital. Stoke-on-Trent primary care trust and other trusts all qualify for a licence under the new Care Quality Commission standards regime.

Central government

HM Revenue and Customs and Cafcass have offices in the city.


The council wants to install solar panels in all suitable council properties as it tries to become one of the country’s first sustainable cities. A new £20m transport/bus interchange redevelopment is going ahead next year. A planned £270m shopping complex will create 4,000 new jobs.

Voluntary sector

There are 23 international, 43 national and 271 local charities in the district with a combined income of £68m; 1,642 charitable trustees live here.

Commuter links

M6 junctions 15 (three miles); A50/A516 to Derby (34 miles); A50/A453 Nottingham (50 miles). Trains: London Euston (93 mins); Manchester (43 mins); Birmingham (47 mins).

Property prices

Two-bed flat: £60k- £150k; three-bed semi: £65k-£185k; four-bed detached: £150k-£699k.

Would the above information make you want to uproot your home and/or your business and relocate to Stoke-on-Trent?

Do the above headline facts hide the reality of the socio-economic prospects for the city?

Stoke-on-Trent City Farm In Top Ten Urban Places To Visit

The Stoke-on-Trent City Farm in Bucknall Park has made it in to the Guardian top 10 urban places to visit.

Placed at number 3, between Mudchute Farm London & Bath City Farm, the Guardian says

Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too.

about our farm.

Yet another reason to ensure that we keep this asset to the city.

Councillor Adrian Knapper is campaigning hard to keep the City Farm open, although he was accused by Councillor Roger Ibbs of voting to try and close the farm when he was on the EMB.

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery long-listed for national award

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery has been long-listed for a national award for its family friendly environment.
The museum is one of 20 to make the list of the Guardian’s Kids in Museums Awards following nominations from visitors.
A distinguished panel of judges chaired by Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, will now work through the list to create a final short list before a winner is announced.
This shortlist will then be tested by family visitors, unannounced to the museums. These families will decide on a winner, using the Kids in Museums Manifesto as a guide. The winner will be announced in the Guardian and receive 500 folded sheet Mammoth Activity Sheets, especially designed for the Award.
Dea Birkett, Director, Kids in Museums, said:
“The Potteries faced really tough competition in getting on this year’s Family Friendly Museum Award long list, as we had more entries than ever before, and of extremely high quality.
“The Potteries shone through for its imaginative and pioneering work, and its commitment to including even very young children. We were particularly impressed that families were encouraged to be noisy, singing nursery rhymes as they wandered around one of the trails.”
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, added:
“The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery deserves the recognition for its exceptional work to engage with children and their families. The museum has hosted a large number of events over recent months which demonstrate just how family friendly they are and to be nominated for a national award of this calibre is a testament to those staff that provide this service.”
Kids in Museums aims to encourage and guide museums and galleries across the country to make family visits engaging and enjoyable.
Residents wishing to be considered as a judging family for the Award, should email

Guardian gagging order sparks Twitter frenzy


The Guardian has been prevented from reporting a question from local MP Paul Farrelly  in parliament, sparking a vociferous campaign on the internet.

The injunction prevents the newspaper from reporting a question from an MP to a minister published in a House of Commons order paper.

“Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret,” the paper’s reporter, David Leigh, wrote today.

The only hint as to where the action originated comes in the name of the lawyers requesting it: Carter Ruck.

That clue has led journalists to bookmark a question from Paul Farrelly MP: “To ask the secretary of state for justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.”

Carter Ruck act as lawyers for Trafigura, which was hit by negative headlines in the summer after it settled a case involving the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.

Media outlets, including, had been unable to report on the story up until then due to persistent threats from Carter Ruck.

But the move has prompted an unprecedented surge in comment on the company on Twitter, with #trafigura becoming the most popular topic on the social media site.

In scenes reminiscent of the #welovenhs campaign, Twitter began filling up with comment on Trafigura, with hundred of new posts a minute.

Many tweets call on MPs to make statements today calling for press freedom in parliament.

Lib dem MP Jo Swinson wrote: “appalled by this #trafigura stuff what is the country coming to when the papers can’t report Parliament?”

Her party leader, Nick Clegg, suggested he intended to do something about the situation today.

” Very interested concerned about this #trafigura / Guardian story the @LibDems are planning to take action on this,” he tweeted today.

Reporting of procedures in parliament are typically subject to absolute privilege, granting journalists the highest protection against any legal action.


Paul Farrelly MP

The Guardian Story

The Guardian Archive

Search Twitter for #Trafigura

Guido Fawkes has more information

The Spectator

In the last hour the Guardian have said that they are hoping to get in to court today to overturn the gagging order.

BREAKING NEWS: Wedgwood Museum takes the prize!

Source: The Guardian

As a manufacturer, Wedgwood has come close to the brink. As a museum less than a year old, however, one of the world’s most famous pottery brands is soaring, after winning the UK’s most financially lucrative arts prize.

Wedgwood Museum - Barlaston

Wedgwood Museum - Barlaston

The Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, Staffordshire, has been awarded the £100,000 Art Fund prize for museums and galleries at a ceremony in central London this evening. The result is even more impressive because the building, which tells Wedgwood’s story via original ceramics, manuscripts, factory equipment and models, only opened last October, after nine years of planning and fundraising.

The judges, chaired by the film producer peer David Puttnam, were unanimous, collectively declaring themselves “bowled over” by their visit to the potteries. Puttnam said the judging meeting had been a happy one. “I went round the table once and it became absolutely clear who was going to win, so we then just concentrated on the whys.”

The Wedgwood Museum was extraordinary, he said. “The museum is an apotheosis of commerce, design, manufacturing, creativity. If you want an object lesson in the triumph and tragedy of British manufacturing, it is a brilliant snapshot of what has gone right and what has gone wrong.”

The £10m museum opened last year, cleverly built on the site of the art-deco Wedgwood factory, which opened in 1940 and is still producing pottery ““ just. The company has had a torrid year, with Waterford Wedgwood placed in administration in January, before being rescued by a US-based private equity company in March. The promise has been new investment and continued production, albeit aimed at high-end foreign markets.

This should have been a celebratory year for Wedgwood ““ it’s the 250th anniversary of founder Josiah Wedgwood starting his pottery business in nearby Burslem.

The shortlisted museums that missed out were the Ruthin Craft Centre in north Wales, Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, and Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which was featured for its New Centre of Enlightenment, a new museum experience created for children between 10 and 14 years old.

This year the judges also included the Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and Robert Crawford, former director general of the Imperial War Museum.

For the first time in the history of the prize the public had a say, with more than 27,000 people casting a vote via the Art and design section of the Guardian website.

The People’s Choice process was not without its hitches. After an attempt to tamper with the results, the poll ““ which was due to run for just under six weeks ““ was closed 12 hours early and an internal was investigation launched.

Alex Needham,’s culture editor, said he was confident that the corrected results, which have since been passed to the jury, were an accurate reflection of the votes cast. “Obviously, it was a great shame that some people felt the need to try and influence the result, but it was clear which votes were illegitimate,” he said. “We had over five weeks of voting and, in the end, Wedgwood was the runaway winner here, too.”

G20 death raises serious concerns over police tactics

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Ian Tomlinson, the man who died at last week’s G20 protests in London, was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton-wielding police officer in riot gear, dramatic footage obtained by the ­Guardian shows.

Moments after the assault on ­Tomlinson was captured on video, he ­suffered a heart attack and died.

The submission to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) includes a collection of testimonies from witnesses, along with the footage, shot at about 7.20pm last Wednesday, which shows ­Tomlinson at Royal Exchange ­Passage. The film reveals that as he walks, with his hands in his pockets, he does not speak to the police or offer any resistance.

A phalanx of officers, some with dogs and some in riot gear, are close behind him and try to urge him forward.

A Metropolitan police officer appears to strike him with a baton, hitting him from behind on his upper thigh.

Moments later, the same policeman rushes forward and, using both hands, pushes Tomlinson in the back and sends him flying to the ground, where he ­remonstrates with police who stand back, leaving bystanders to help him to his feet.

The man who shot the footage, a fund manager from New York who was in London on business, said he had attended the protests out of curiosity. He said: “The primary reason for me coming forward is that it was clear the family were not ­getting any answers.”

One witness, Anna Branthwaite, a ­photographer, described how in the ­minutes before the video was shot, she saw Tomlinson walking towards Cornhill Street.

“A riot police officer had already grabbed him and was pushing him,” she said. “It wasn’t just pushing him ““ he’d rushed him. He went to the floor and he did actually roll. That was quite noticeable.

“It was the force of the impact. He bounced on the floor. It was a very forceful knocking down from behind. The officer hit him twice with a baton when he was lying on the floor.

“So it wasn’t just that the officer had pushed him ““ it became an assault. And then the officer picked him up from the back, continued to walk or charge with him, and threw him.

“He was running and stumbling. He didn’t turn and confront the officer or anything like that.”

The witness accounts contradict the official version of events given by police.

In an official statement on the night of Tomlinson’s death, the Metropolitan police made no reference to any ­contact with officers and described attempts by police medics and an ambulance crew to save his life after he collapsed ““ efforts which they said were marred by ­protesters throwing missiles as first aid was administered .

The force said officers had created a ­cordon around Tomlinson to give him CPR.

Yesterday, the IPCC began managing an investigation by City of London police into the ­circumstances of ­Tomlinson’s death after the Guardian ­published photographs of him on the ground and witness statements indicated he had been assaulted by police officers.

Watch the Gaurdian video here:


The Liberal Democrats are now demanding a criminal inquiry.

The party’s justice spokesman, David Howarth, said the footage showed a “sickening and unprovoked attack” by police.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said an independent police inquiry needed to be completed as soon as possible.

Pits’n’Pots commends the work of the Guardian newspaper in uncovering this video footage. This man was clearly walking away with his back to the police. The family of Mr Tomlinson deserve justice.

This must not be allowed to turn into a police cover up.

Over to you………

Source: The Guardian.