Stoke-on-Trent City Council are a step closer to recovering money lost in Icelandic banking crash

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have released a statement regarding the Icelandic Supreme Court ruling on Friday which ruled that the deposits of UK local authorities in Landsbanki HF would be given priority status over other creditors.

We are delighted the Icelandic Supreme Court has found in favour of UK local authorities and other UK wholesale depositors.

This judgment means that claims have been recognised as deposits with priority status over other creditors’ claims. This means they will be paid first when it comes to getting their money back and will recover almost all of the money they had on deposit with the failed Icelandic banks.

This decision which comes more than 3 years after the banks failed is a huge victory. The way in which the LGA and our legal advisors have co-ordinated the legal action with other local authorities / [other] universities and other UK wholesale depositors has minimised legal costs whilst enabling us to advance the strongest possible arguments to secure this result. The cost of the litigation to date amounts to less than 1 per cent of the amount we expect to recover.

While Stoke-on-Trent is not a test case this is a vital step forward to securing our claim.

The Supreme Court ruling Securing priority status for UK Wholesale Depositors in the administrations of [Landsbanki [and] Glitnir] and could save council taxpayers as much as £4701 million nationally.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council missed the opportunity to withdraw £3m of the £5m deposited with Landsbanki in 2009 because the warning E-mail sent to the City Council by its Credit Agency was not opened. The Audit Commission investigated at the time, agreeing that it was a ‘genuine mistake’

Operation Impact

Staffordshire Police today launched Operation Impact, the force wide approach to tackle serious acquisitive crime and bring those criminals associated to justice.

Staffordshire Police has already re-focused its efforts in tackling serious acquisitive crime, in the first half of this year (April to Sept) offences have fallen by 367, a fall of 8% with overall crime falling by nearly 10% across the force.

Six days of action will follow across Staffordshire and the City, starting on Monday 31 October through until Saturday 5 November.

I’m looking forward to some really good results as we work proactively across the County and Stoke-on-Trent to target criminals, detect and reduce crime and make our communities feel safe.

We will also be working with partners, colleagues from education, social services and road crime teams to deal with a variety of offences and issues such as anti-social behaviour and truancy to non-insured vehicles.

Whilst acquisitive crime rates are falling across Staffordshire and the City, we are not complacent, and it remains a priority for ourselves and our partners to tackle the issue by bringing offenders to justice.

During the week long operation there will be regular updates publicising the week’s activity through the force website, media and social media to allow members of the public to access updates of the action.

City Farm equipment to be donated to care farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to donate equipment to a local care farm that helps vulnerable groups including those with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health issues.

The equipment, which was used by the former City Farm in Bucknall, will be given to Sherrats Wood Farm, Middleton Green, Leigh to help them deliver a range of therapeutic and educational activities involving animals and horticulture.

The equipment has been in storage since the farm closed in March 2011, when all the animals were re-homed to other farms in the area.

We have been approached by one of the farms that provided the animals with a new home when the City Farm closed earlier this year.

The equipment could be put to better use somewhere that can be dedicated towards industrial and educational farming, so that’s why we have decided to donate it to Sherrats Wood Farm.

Following a disastrous tendering process, highlighted by Pits n Pots, Stoke-on-Trent City Council closed the City Farm in March. Now the council are again considering becoming land speculators and looking to acquire the land within the farm site not currently in its ownership, and examine future uses for the area.

We have to be clear that the farm is no longer in existence as a city council run service. Anyone looking to take over the site as a farm would need to have the relevant expertise and funding in place to run it on a commercial basis.

If no one can come forward and put a realistic case together, then we would have to look at how best the land could be used by the city council.
“Incorporating the former farm site into the wider Bucknall Park area as public open space is the immediate solution while we examine its future uses and any offers that may come from the private sector.

Don’t forget to push the button

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to push the button on their smoke alarms as they change their clocks this weekend.

The Service launched its “ËœPush the Button’ campaign earlier in the month, to encourage residents to test their smoke alarm on a weekly basis.

Statistics reveal more accidental house fires take place during winter than at any other time of year. Last year six people died following fires in their homes which involved heating devices. Desperate to avoid such incidents the Service wants to raise awareness of fire safety amongst Staffordshire’s residents and encourage everyone to make sure their smoke alarms work.

When you change your clocks, test your smoke alarm – or help somebody less able to test theirs. It only takes a minute and could save lives. A working smoke alarm gives you those precious few minutes extra warning of a fire, making it more likely for you to be able to get out of the house safely.

We urge people to test their smoke alarms on a weekly basis and if they don’t work, call us on 0800 0241 999 to book a free Home Fire Risk Check and we will come out and fit new ones for free.

A home fire risk check involves a member of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service visiting your home to give fire safety advice and fitting equipment such as smoke alarms to ensure you are safer in your home. The freephone number to ring to request a check is 0800 0241 999 and on ringing you will be able to arrange a mutually convenient time for the visit to take place. All staff carry an I.D card. Although checks to the elderly and vulnerable are prioritised, the service is open to everyone.

Site Update

As many of you have pointed out, the site has been a bit quiet since August, this was down to work and personal commitments on my part and Tony stepping away to concentrate on other projects.

While we have been having a break we have been continuing work on the next version of Pits n Pots which had been in the planning since earlier in the year. Over the past week we have been busily making changes to the back end of the site that will enable us to deploy the next version in the near future.

The site has been off line on and off for the last 24 hours while we made some pretty significant changes to the hardware configuration and the server operating system. If you are reading this post then all being well everything has gone to plan and the site is back up and running.

As far as we can tell we lost a couple of comments that were made in the period while we were moving the database, but other than that everything should be just where it was before.

Unfortunately for site visitors, you won’t see a great deal of difference initially as almost everything we have done has been to get the site ready for the next version, but things you will notice are:

Shorter user profiles, we have removed a lot of the profile fields as they are not really needed. Any data in those fields was deleted during the upgrades.

Less clutter, we have removed quite a lot of sidebar clutter as it isn’t needed.

Improved Search, we have added Google search to the site as this gives far better results, so you should be able to find archive content more easily.

Additional login options, we have added the ability for you to link your Twitter account to your user profile, or use Twitter to create an account so you can log in using your Twitter ID.

If you do link your Twitter account, this site does not have any access to your account details, the link is read only using the authorised Twitter oAuth application. You can de-authorise the Pits n Pots application at any time by logging in to your Twitter account and removing it.

We are also in the process of adding Facebook connect to the site so that you can login using your Facebook account, I’ll post more details on this once it is implemented.

Hopefully things will get back on track over the next few weeks and you will see more content appearing on the site and the discussions starting again.

Of course if you have any problems or things don’t work, leave a comment below.

Lord-Lieutenant Arrives By Fire Engine

Sir James Hawley KCVO the Lord-Lieutenant arrived to Staffordshire Fire and Rescue HQ with his wife, Lady Hawley, yesterday morning to get a lift to Hanley Community Fire Station. Rather than the more traditional car to take him to Hanley Sir James found a Fire Engine waiting for him.

He was firstly given a tour of the appliance before being driven to the station on the fire engine ““ something he described as a dream come true.

The Lord-Lieutenant has served in his role for the last 16 years, attending over 200 locations in Staffordshire with members of the Royal Family during that time. The official opening of Hanley Community Fire Station was one of his last official roles before he retires.

Stoke-on-Trent Tour stage sets TV viewing figures record

The Stoke-on-Trent stage of the 2011 Tour of Britain was easily the biggest hit with television viewers, recent audience figures have revealed.
Close to three quarters of a million people tuned in to ITV 4 to watch the hour-long highlights package of the 80 mile stage which began at Trentham Gardens and finished outside the Town Hall in the city centre.
The viewing figures were split over two days, with the initial programme shown on the night of the event on Tuesday September 13, with a repeat showing the following morning.
A record 592,000 watched Lars Boom power to victory up the hill on Albion Street, just hours after the event finished in the Stoke-on-Trent sunshine. A further 127,000 saw the repeat on Wednesday.
The closest stage to Stoke-on-Trent was Stage 4, when 649,000 tuned in over the two days to see the Welshpool to Caerphilly race.
The figures represent a record for the four-year period the event has been shown on ITV4 and was 250,000 more than watched the televised Stoke-on-Trent stage last year.
Organisers are delighted with the statistics, released by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, which indicate the UK’s growing fascination with cycling.

The figures all over the country were vastly up on last year, with Stoke-on-Trent breaking records. Nearly three quarters of a million is on a par with ITV4’s Tour De France figures. It is great news for everyone and shows that the event and the sport is growing rapidly in popularity.

This year’s event was the fourth time the Tour of Britain has come to Stoke-on-Trent, with more and more local people coming out to watch each year.
In September Mark Cavendish took part in the race, using it as a warm-up event for the World Championships a week later ““ which he duly won.
Since then Cavendish, a favourite for Olympic Gold next July in London, has joined Team Sky which increases the chances of the 20-time Tour De France Stage winner taking part in his home tour each year.
Initial reports suggest that the Tour resulted in a net economic impact of over £3.5 million for the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire region, with further results expected next week.
In further good news, the city council Event’s Team has won recognition after being awarded a runner’s up place in a competition run by sponsors Halfords for the Tour Series Event back in June.
The award was based on the supporting events, promotion and effort. Stoke-on-Trent were judged second out of eight venues which will result in a number of prizes for the council. 
Stoke-on-Trent engaged local schools and community cycling groups for the day’s activities with a great response. The team at Stoke-on-Trent also worked well during the planning process, making sure everyone was up-to-date with their plans and also open to suggestions and developments.

The city council’s Events Team were beaten into second place by Colchester, but were granted runner’s up ahead of other race hosts’ such as Oldham, Exeter and London. They will receive a certificate, a trophy and a framed winners’ jersey.
All of this is really good news. This year’s cycle events have been better than ever. That so many people tuned into our stage shows how popular cycling is in this region and how good a job our team do in putting it on with partners. It is great to see Stoke-on-Trent setting records.
That our Events team has also been recognised for their excellent work is fantastic. London has a stage of the Tour of Britain and also a leg of the Tour Series and more people watched on TV to see our city’s Tour of Britain stage than they did for the one in the Capital and our leg of the Tour Series has been judged a better event than the one in Canary Wharf by sponsors’. This shows exactly what the city is capable of and is reward for everyone’s good work.

This is brilliant news. It is fantastic that so many people watched the Stoke-on-Trent stage on television ““ and a record too! It was a wonderful day, it is a fantastic event and let’s hope we can bring it back next year.

Hanley Community Fire Station Official Opening Today

Hanley Community Fire Station will be officially opened by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Sir James Hawley KCVO today.

As part of the officially opening ceremony, the four men who came to the aid of neighbours during a house fire in Bentilee, Stoke-on-Trent in December last year will also receive Chief Fire Officer bravery awards (see notes to editor).
Between them, the men rescued Christopher Maskery and four children from the burning property and will each receive certificates from Chief Fire Officer, Peter Dartford on Friday, October 28th.

The official opening of Hanley Community Fire Station ceremony seemed a fitting time to award the brave members of the community who helped save the lives of others during the tragic house fire on Housefield Road in December last year.

All four men acted with astonishing bravery that day and their main concern was not for their own safety but for the safety of their neighbours and that is not something we could overlook.

This station is not simply a brighter, shinier version of what we already had here”“ this is truly a community facility that happens to have fire engines parked in the bays ““ something that local people are using for a range of activities.

We are extremely proud of the new station and more importantly what it means to the communities we serve. This building represents a completely new way for our services to be delivered and provides a model for others to follow in the future.

We’re delighted to welcome the Lord Lieutenant to officially open the station in a ceremony that is set to capture the community spirit evident in Stoke-on-Trent.

Firefighters moved into the new community fire station, which comes complete with state of the art training and professional development facilities, in July. The building has been designed to provide a range of facilities for the local community and partners to use, including a community meeting room, a dedicated area for student firefighters, a gym for supervised groups and a partnership area. The station is crewed around the clock and 41 firefighters are based at the station.

Community and partner groups interested in booking the free community room facilities at Hanley, which seat up to 60 people, should email or ring 01785 898760. Slots are available weekdays from 9am ““ 10pm and at weekends from 9am ““ 5pm.

Full council to meet for first time in the evening 20th Oct – 5:30pm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council

The first evening full council meeting will take place this Thursday (October 20) after councillors agreed to move the start time to 5:30pm.

In the past, meetings of the full council have started at 2:30pm. Now, it has been decided that meetings will begin three hours later to encourage better engagement of city’s residents in local democracy both in terms of attendance at meetings and getting more people from diverse backgrounds to stand for election.

Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Councillor Mohammed Pervez, said:

The decision by full council to move to evening meetings was made in order to get more people in the city involved with local politics. By widening access we hope to attract more young people to take an interest in local democracy and council decisions possibly even standing for election.

“Also by moving the time to evenings it would allow people who work during the day to either attend the meeting or watch the meeting “Ëœlive’ as agenda items are debated via our webcam services.

“I believe this is a positive step forward as we continue to make our decision making processes more open to the public and in transparent manner. If local decisions are accessible to people they can get more involved in the council services that matter to them.”

Nationally a number of councils already hold evening council meetings. The proposal was passed at the last meeting of the council on Thursday September 8, 2011. Councillors will meet, as usual, in the council chamber.

The meeting will be broadcast live via:

Webcast Player