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

500 Word From Mark Wright

My name is Mark Wright, I’m 24 and I’m currently a councillor in the Hanford
and Tentham ward, where I’m standing for re-election. I have always lived
in Trentham, I attended the local schools and am a member of the local Rugby
club. I have recently purchased a property in the area, and intend on
staying here as I enjoy living in Trentham so much, which is why I want to
help represent and further increase the development of our area. I have a
passion for this ward and want it to continue to be the flagship
neighbourhood.

In May 2010 I was elected for a one year term of office as councillor for
the Hanford and Trentham ward, and this year in the role has given me an
insight into how the Council functions and will allow me to represent you
with knowledge of the role and an understanding of how to get action in all
areas of the ward.

If re-elected for a full term I would continue the work already underway
around the ward, building greater relationships with Residents Associations,
action groups, learning and social groups, youth groups and of course you
the residents. There have been some great leaps forward in our ward with
regards to the reduction of anti social behaviour, it generally being a
cleaner and greener ward, and highways repairs. I will continue to fight for
services within the ward and push hard for a fair deal for our neighbourhood
as I have done in the past year.

I would love the chance and challenge of being re-elected on to Stoke on
Trent City Council and would be proud to represent the residents of the
Hanford and Trentham ward again.

500 Words From Peter Hayward

Thanks to the resources provided by Pits n Pots I see that the 500 plus words I put together in support of my 2010 campaign are still there for all to see “¦ and judge this years efforts by no doubt.

I wasn’t successful last year, but as promised I’ve made good use of the spare time to put together ideas for the future, and used these as a base for my campaign this year. One thing is for sure “¦ I haven’t lost faith in the fact that there is an enthusiasm and an ability in Hanford & Trentham to bring about improvements in our community.

I have produced an election leaflet in which, as promised last year I’ve detailed my Mini Manifesto for the next four years. My targets have been researched, and are doable if I get elected.

I’ve now completed posting these leaflets “¦ sharing a few days with Terry Fellows helping with his, so that all residents in Hanford and Trentham are now fully aware that they have 2 Independent candidates, both of whom have a genuine commitment to the future wellbeing of Hanford and Trentham. Two candidates they can trust and vote for with confidence.

Time now to “Ëœgo public’ on Pits n Pots.

Attached “¦ my election leaflet & mini manifesto

Pupils in the Magistrates Court

Today I had the good fortune to drive one of the car loads of Trentham High pupils to Stafford magistrates court for a schools competition.

Pupils took roles in a mock trial, conducted in real court rooms, from a brief they had been given and prepared for in advance. The team from each school comprised at least; 3 magistrates, two prosecution lawyers, two defence lawyers, a legal advisor, a prosecution witness, a police witness, a defence witness and the defendant.

4 schools had entered the competition for our local area and the teams rotated such that each school was in the trial twice, as each side of prosecution vs defence; Trentham vs Biddulph, Biddulph vs Endon, Endon vs Thomas Boughey, Thomas Boughey vs Trentham. The magistrates team for each trial was seven rather than three, allowing for three from each of two schools and headed by a real magistrate. The pupils had worked hard and conducted their trials extremely well. The schools were judged on how they conducted all their relevant roles.

For me as an observer it was a fascinating day. The day was extremely well run, when we arrived there was a large team of real magistrates and court staff to welcome us, show us the courts, assist with the organization and answer questions.

At the point in each trial when the magistrates retired to consider their verdict, other magistrates talked to the rest of us in the court room about magistrates and court processes and answered questions. Some points discussed covered that magistrates are unpaid. They get expenses, not like MPs for duck houses and the like, but much more modest covering basic travel and a small lunch allowance. The process for becoming a magistrate starts with an interview to assess the ability to apply fairness and common sense and involves training with regular updates and appraisal. Ideally they include a representative range of population between the ages of 18 and 70. My personal opinion is the cut off at 70 is unfairly ageist and there must be people over 70 who could make a good contribution as magistrates. If magistrates have good skills in common sense I would think they should be capable of assessing for themselves whether any issues, connected with age or not, affect whether they should continue or step down. Magistrates have to do a minimum of 35 half day sessions per year. To me this would for some people be difficult in terms of being released from work.

Magistrates preside over the more minor cases leading to non-custodial sentences or short custodial sentences. Major cases are referred on to crown court. There is a chance of appeal against a guilty verdict. Defendants who plead guilty can expect a reduction of about a third in the punishment. Interestingly if a defendant states they are innocent but that they want to plead guilty to avoid the trial process and get it over with quickly, their plea can be denied by the magistrates. One pupil asked an extremely pertinent question. If a defendant wants to plead guilty in this way, but is denied this, then they are found guilty at trial, do they get the normal reduction in sentence? The answer seemed to be that the initial intention regarding the plea should be recorded so that out of fairness the reduced sentence should be given.

For one of the trials, while the magistrates were out deliberating a poll was done of us observers in the court, of which there were a fair number, as to whether we would find the defendant guilty or not guilty. We agreed unanimously on a not guilty verdict. However, when the magistrates returned the verdict was guilty. That was very interesting. Ordinarily even if the magistrates don’t unanimously agree, this is not revealed. But for the purpose of this exercise it was explained that the pupil magistrates were evenly split 3-3. That wasn’t one school on one side and one on the other, there was a split within school groups. So in the end the real magistrate had to decide. A real case like that would likely go to appeal.

Thanks to all the magistrates and court staff for giving up their own time to put on this valuable event for the schools. Thanks also to the teachers and other supporters. It was a very positive experience for all. A district judge spoke at the end and gave every encouragement to the pupils, praising their hard working and responsible attitude, which is the real norm in young people in contrast to the impression which could be gained from some of the real individuals facing trial at the courts. He pointed out that there were no losers in the competition, as they had all won by entering and contributing so well. Each school gained a trophy and all pupils got a certificate. A great enjoyable and informative day out was had by all.

Congratulations go to Endon for winning the competition. They go on now to compete with others at a larger regional level as part of this national competition.

Police Surgeries This Week

Residents are encouraged to come along to meetings with officers from Neighbourhood Policing Units (NPUs) across the City over the next few days to discuss any issues or concerns the may have.

This afternoon officers who police the Abbey Hulton area of the city will be working from the Sutton Community Group base, Priory Road, between 4pm and 5pm.

Later this evening Officers who cover the Trentham and Hanford areas are hosting a Partners and Communities Together (PACT) meeting this evening. They will be working from the library at Trentham High School, Allerton Road, from 7pm.

Tomorrow (Thursday 4 February) officers from Bucknall NPU are holding a surgery at the Community House, Theodore Road, between 9am and 10.30am.

Officers from Longton NPU will be working from Coalville Community Centre, West Street, between 9.30am and 11am.

Residents in Fenton are invited to meet their local officers on Thursday morning. Officers will be at Fenton Library, Baker Street, between 10am and 12noon.

Officers who cover the Hanley East and Joiners Square areas will be working from Reginald Mitchell Court between 10am and 12noon on Thursday.

Residents in Longport are encouraged to attend a street meeting in Scott Lidgett Road between 11am and 12.30pm on Thursday.

Officers from Bucknall NPU are holding a surgery on Thursday afternoon at Smallthorne Community Centre, Community Drive, between 12noon and 2pm.

Officers who police the Milton, Baddeley Green and Stockton Brook areas are holding a PACT meeting on Thursday evening. They will be at Milton Bowling Club, Millrise Road, between 6pm and 8pm

Submission to the Boundary Committee

This is the submission that I have put to the Boundary Committee:

I present to you my views as Deputy Leader of the Conservative and Independent Alliance Group of the City Council.

You will by now be aware of the difficulty the City Council had in coming to a united decision on how to organise the warding arrangements based on a 45 member council at the Council meeting of the 7th. January.

What there was a united view that a 45member council was too small.

Our group believe that if we had the opportunity to have decided on 46 or 47 members the warding arrangements would have been successfully supported by a majority of the council.

The extra 1 or 2 members would have enabled the council to draw up wards of similar size and keep communities in their own natural areas rather than having to look to make up wards to try and get numbers something similar.

An example of this was the Meadow Lane Estate in Trentham which was suggested be transfered to a Blurton Ward.

The council previously agreed to one of the 14 recommendations of the Governance Commission and consulted on that basis of single member arrangements as instructed.

Public consultation was held and in some areas due to the un-natural nature of the wards the community asked for multi member arrangements to be considered.

Although you are not restricted to single member wards we as a council had been told that we could not ‘cherry pick’ any of the recommendations and we were therefore in a dilemma.

Members who had been ‘instructed’ to support single member wards, even though they personally were not in favour of them, were now faced with the dilemma of a hybrid view for some areas when that view had not been placed before their area because we consulted and expected single member arrangements.

It must be recognised that the work of the Administration and Appeals Committee under the chairmanship of Cllr. Alan Joynson in pulling together all of the representations was a superb piece of work. The problem was that this work highlighted the community view being different to the council’s predetermined position. This then placed the councillors in a position where they were expected to vote against the wishes of their community

The council officers had drawn up a series of options based on 45 to 48 members and this small increase gave a much better set of arrangements.

We realise that there is a set date for the end of presentations to you but since these new arrangements will stand for 20 to 30 years we would ask for an extension of a few weeks to enable the council to come to their preferred view which we believe would be 47 or 48 members.

We believe that the warding arrangements drawn up by our officers based on that number would receive substantial support.

We would ask that you consider the proposals drawn up by the council on a slightly larger number of members which we are sure you will agree give much better community connections.

If this delay is not possible then we make the following comments based on 45 members:

1. Single member wards are our preference since it gives a uniform mode of representation across the whole City and is easily understood.

2. Dual and triple member wards with a predominance of single member wards will lead to a lack of understanding of why an adjoining ward has 2 or 3 members and they have only 1.

3. The opposition to one area feeling dominated by another because of the name of the ward would be overcome if we returned to numbering the wards as used to be the case when we had 24 wards. I was elected firstly for ward 6 which later became Burslem Grange and yet I live in Sneyd Green. Numbering removes the conflict.

4. Should you be considering some multi member wards based on 45 members then the position and presentation I know you will be receiving from the Administration and Appeals Committee, represents the best way forward

Cllr Roger Ibbs
Deputy Leader Conservative & Independent Alliance.

Meadow Lane Estate ““ the residents speak out on ward boundaries

The Meadow Lane estate is in Trentham, just North of Longton Road, at the border with the current Blurton ward, separated from it by the railway line.

On 4th January 2010 a public meeting was held at Trentham High School, organised by ordinary residents in the Meadow Lane area of Trentham, about the council’s views on new ward boundaries.

I was so heartened to see this happen, an issue crops up in the community and I counted about 70 of us who were concerned enough to turn out on a very cold evening to discuss it. Many were from the Meadow Lane estate most affected but I noticed a fair few of us there from other parts of Trentham.

Dan Jordan, chair of the Save Trentham High Action Group, spoke first and said that after saving our high school, local residents remain concerned about the whole community.

Ward councillor Terry Follows attended the meeting and conveyed apologies for absence from the other ward councillors Ross Irving and Roger Ibbs.

The council’s initial proposal had been for the Meadow Lane estate to become part of the new Blurton Farm, Newstead & Trentham Lakes ward, in order to get the right number of electorate in each single member ward. The council would have then recommended that the rest of the current Trentham & Hanford Ward be split into two; Hanford & Trentham Ley and Trentham South. Terry reported that the transition board had been brought in to gerrymander the wards and that he and our other ward councillors all agreed on not wanting the Meadow Lane Estate left out. Following consultation the current council recommendation is to keep the Trentham & Hanford boundaries as they are now but have it as a two member ward rather than a three member ward.

Grace Jordan explained that we should all submit our views direct to the Boundary Committee by January 11th, because they look at all the submissions they receive, including the council’s and ours, deliberate for 14 weeks, then publish their proposal. They may visit. At that stage we can comment again on their proposals. Tim Bowden from the Boundary Committee is aware of our discussions. The Boundary Committee will make the final decision in October.

A resident stressed the importance of individual letters to the Boundary Committee.

Terry suggested that the Meadow Lane area may wish to form a residents’ association and could contact him if they would like to.

A resident complained that he had requested maps from the council but these had not been provided.

Dan, despite “not trying to get too political about it” said that we need to be careful about our future, the transition board including Mike Tappin had wanted to socially engineer us by trying to combine two schools. Dan also said though that under the council’s proposal we would get double the number of councillors we currently have in the ward, given what Ibbs and Irving are like.

An individual in the know who shall not be named said that only 170 people had responded to the council consultation, consultations tend to be run over the holidays for very short time periods. He pointed out that officers run Stoke-on-Trent council and that Roger Ibbs and Ross Irving had been instrumental in devolving council powers to the officers.

The meeting voted on the council proposal for a two member ward retaining the current Trentham & Hanford boundaries. A large majority voted for this, nobody voted against.

The council will consider and vote on their submission to the Boundary Committee, which includes this recommendation, at the meeting at the Civic Centre at 2.30pm on Thursday 7th January. I pointed out that the public may observe this meeting if they are available at that time.

A show of hands indicated that about 60 of us intend writing individual submissions to the Boundary Committee.

Man found dead in Trentham Woods

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

A man was found dead this morning in the Trentham Gardens Estate.

Police were called out when a body was discovered in the woods around 10am.

The man has yet to be formally identified, but his family are in the process of being informed about his death.

The incident is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.

Inspector Dan Ison, from Chase Division CID, said: “Officers were called to the Trentham Wood area at 10.45am this morning following reports that a man was dead in the area.

“Officers attended and confirmed this was the case.”

Music Festival at Trentham – today

Today there is a community music festival taking place in Stoke-on-Trent ““ which as well as promising to be a day to remember, will raise money and awareness for cancer.

One Day in May (ODIM) will take place at Trentham Gardens from 10am and will feature some of the best local talent including such well-known names as The Barflys, Sarah Miller and Elvis Fontenot and the Sugar Bees.

The event, which is being planned by Take a Breath Productions, is headed up by Canadian Chuck Micallef who promised his wife, Janet, who died tragically of lung cancer last year, that he would follow through on completing the venture they started together.

Charismatic Chuck, who moved to England in 1991, will be gracing the stage himself with his own brand of country/blues on the day. He said:

“I organised the event because my darlin’ Janet asked me to.  We were facing the battle with her lung cancer and I think, she being the wise woman she is, thought we needed a distraction and the feeling that we were working together on something for the common good. Janet asked me for my word that I would continue organising the event whether or not she was able to attend and I gave it to her.”

At a tenner to get in, with the line-up that’s planned, and the fact you also get into the Italian Gardens for the fee, saving the normal fiver, it’s really a bit of a bargain. So, if you’re looking for something to do this afternoon, you know where to go.

Should the city be a state of ‘Independence’?

Comment By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

It’s now May, the city is five weeks away from one of the biggest changes in our city’s history. Our elected representatives will get to choose the new Council Leader from one of their own.

Whoever the new leader turns out to be, he/she will require the votes of 31 other councillors. The vote will be a ringing endorsement for that particular person, a vote of real confidence you could say.

Over recent times I have spoken to many people from all sides of the chamber and believe it or not, with just a few weeks to go to the big day, no one clear favourite has emerged.

Over the past three months, when you would expect candidates and their parties to shine like a beacon of best practice we have seen the main coalition parties implode.

So, is it now time for the city to seek a new direction and encourage our elected representatives to return an Independent council leader?

If you take my party the Libdems, just what do they stand for locally? I joined the party as they best represent my political views nationally. Here in Stoke I have yet to see a single Libdem policy in print, I have yet to be invited to any meeting, yet I have had a letter asking me if I am willing to stand as a candidate in 2010/2011.

Kieran Clarke is, from what I am told, an excellent councillor and portfolio holder. But anyone listening to the audio interview I did with him this week would struggle to gleam what the Libdems stand for in this city despite my probing and giving him several opportunities to tell us what the party could do for the city.

Jean Bowers has stepped down as leader in anticipation of being the next Lord Mayor. It has been suggested to me that there maybe a call for Terry Follows to be the next Lord Mayor in recognition of his efforts and support in helping to save Trentham High School. I don’t think many of the city’s electorate would argue against Terry Follows as he typifies everything you could ask for in a ward councillor. Mrs Bowers on the other hand has ruffled the electorates feathers on more than one occasion. She also has angered some of the other councillors in the chamber.

Zulfiqar Ali

Zulfiqar Ali

Dr Ali has succeeded Paul Billington as deputy leader. This is a strange decision in many ways. Dr Ali has only been in the party and the council for just over a year where as Paul Billington has a wealth of experience and has demonstrated that he has great understanding of council procedures and is well known for his scrutiny of the officers. This change in the Libdem Party has highlighted a division equal to that in the Labour Party and has denied their party the front bench services of a fierce spokesperson.

Well, we have just seen the end to the popular TV programme ‘Hells Kitchen’ and it seems the heat of the EMB kitchen was too hot for a certain Tory EMB member Ross Irving. Apparently the heat of the grilling that councillors gave the EMB got poor Ross so hot under the collar that he fled the furnace of the Windsor room to the relative coolness of the council corridor.

Ross is tipped by many to be the next Leader of the council especially if the present coalition holds firm. But when you

Ross Irving

Ross Irving

really analyse the Conservative and Independent Alliance you discover that as well as having not one single policy they also have no natural leader now that Roger Ibbs has stepped down. I know Ibbsy is as popular in Trentham as a Jehovah’s Witness at an atheists convention, but come on, could you ever see Ibss walking out of any meeting because the argument got too fierce for him? There is no way he would have stormed out. He would have argued to the end and stood firm in the face of adversity with the usual stubbornness or is it arrogance?.

Lee Wanger would never be able to lead that group for reasons well known. Clive Rigby and Hazel Lyth are far too quiet.  So where is the real leader of that group. More importantly the only possible candidate for Council Leader from that group has proved that he can’t stand the heat of the battle.

So in my opinion two out of the three coalition parties have no single policy of their own to pursue. They are happy to cling on to the coat tails of the Elected mayor and my understanding is that, most of the EMB expect to be in any new cabinet of the soon to be Council Leader.

The Labour party seem to be getting their acts together at the grass roots level but their are major cracks appearing within the council group. Labour councillors not speaking or even communicating with each other. Question marks over who will be the next leader of the group. Differences of opinion on whether the party should or should not be in a coalition. There is a strong possibility that the labour party may become the main opposition party united behind a new Leader that is not tainted by the EMB brush. The national executive come to Stoke next week to interview group councillors and to establish whether there will be any disciplinary action taken against the group leader and fellow Labour EMB members for voting against the group whip. The National Exec will also consider counter allegations made by the EMB members. More worryingly they will decide whether to hold an AGM where any new leader would be voted in. They need to consider their actions very carefully as the wrong move could turn more of the electorate against the traditional party of the working class and encourage them to vote for the far right BNP.

The city expect, no demand a ‘new’ City Labour Party either heading the coalition or leading the opposition.

Brian Ward

Brian Ward

That leaves the City Independents. Maybe our city would benefit from an Independent leader and who better than the ‘silver fox’  Brian Ward. He is a great speaker and a thoroughly nice guy. He is experienced (unlike Mr Rigby) and he is sure to give the Council management a hard ride on behalf of the electorate. He is outside the tainted discredited EMB and has often been seen to lead the vocal oppostion against the EMB/coalition. If the new council leader is to signal a new era for our city isn’t it better to have a politician with no visable baggage?

I ask for one thing from the new leader whoever it may be. Pick the best candidates for the cabinet. Make sure the peoples champions Peter Kent-Baguley and Mick Salih are there to give the sort of scrutiny we have come to expect from them. Recognise that the city is crying out for change.

Maybe an Independent Leader is just the thing that is needed in this city, that and the fierce opposition of a committed, revitalised and rejuvinated Labour Party united behind a new effective leader ready to oppose any decision that they think is taking our city in the wrong direction.

Maybe then the Tories and the Libdems in this city will be forced to seek their own direction and their own policies. This in turn will give us the electorate real choices to make at the next local elections.

Our council chamber should then be a vibrant, exciting, diverse room with heated but reasoned debate that may well make our city the inclusive society that we all crave for.