Ex BNP Councillor Joins Stoke-on-Trent’s Newest Political Group

Ex British National Party member and Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Ellie Walker will be confirmed as the latest recruit to the city’s newest political group Community Voice.

Mrs Walker represents the people of the former BNP stronghold Abbey Green. She is the wife of former BNP Group Leader Alby who left the far right party amidst a storm of publicity surrounding the selection of the party’s PPC for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Mr Walker was defeated in both the General Election, where he lost his deposit, and the local elections, where he was heavily defeated by the Labour Party candidate.

Ellie Walker contradicts the stereotypical image of a BNP activist. She is described as a caring and compassionate person and has often denied being racist.

Many of her fellow councillors are respectful of the work she carries out in both the Abbey Green ward which she represents and her committee work at the Civic Centre.

Some of the electorate may be surprised at the union between members of Community Voice, which is seen as a haven of old socialists and a former far right activist.

Alby Walker is set to join Community Voice in the near future ahead of next year’s all out council elections.

The Community Voice group’s number could be boosted even further in the near future.

Pits n Pots have learned that City Independent Group member Cllr Barbara Beeston could soon be crossing the council chamber.

Emergency talks are due to take place between Cllr Beeston and CIG Leader Cllr Brian Ward.

If those talks fail and Councillor Beeston’s concerns are not addressed, the Community Voice Group will be just one councillor behind the second largest political group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

There are growing rumours that the CIG could lose more members when the Budget consultations take place if the group back unpopular cuts that will impact on communities and services across the city.

Community Voice have refused to comment on the on-going speculation that their numbers may well swell in the near future.

Council Customer Services Staff Partner With Kier For Pioneering Housing Maintenance Trial

A pioneering trial to improve the housing maintenance service provided to council tenants has seen customer services staff and tradesmen work out of the same office for the first time.

A team of seven Stoke-on-Trent City Council contact centre workers yesterday (Thursday) temporarily moved base from their Fenton offices to the authority’s housing maintenance provider Kier Stoke at Cromer Road, Northwood.

The pilot is a groundbreaking initiative between the two organisations to improve services for customers.

It will see a more rapid, comprehensive response pledged to tenants living in more than 6,000 council properties in the central part of the city, in the following areas:

*Abbey Green
*Bentilee and Townsend
*Berryhill and Hanley East
*Hanley West and Shelton
*Hartshill and Penkhull
*Northwood and Birches Head
*Stoke and Trent Vale

“We have always worked closely with Kier to resolve housing maintenance issues across the 19,300 houses that the council owns.

“But that work has become a lot more focussed in recent months. We have been looking at the way the partnership with Kier is working as one of many transformational changes that is taking place across the council in order to drive through efficiencies and improve services for customers.

“This joint working is seeing some customer services staff temporarily move and housing maintenance issues addressed from a single base. For the central area, it will mean that when a tenant reports a leaky tap, broken gate or faulty boiler, for example, calls are fed directly to workmen out in the field who can respond more rapidly. The workmen can then look into any other issues the tenant may have and take appropriate steps to address them from that initial point of contact, where necessary. This will cut down on travel time, reduce inefficiencies in programming in work and improve the experience for customers.

“The work is initially being piloted in the central part of the city because this area has a number of large housing estates, so that we can reach a good cross section of tenants. It is also more central to dispatch stores meaning we can get replacement parts out more quickly for customers. With it being a pilot scheme, we are looking at the central area first ““ residents in the north and south of the city will have their enquiries addressed in the same way as before.”

The city’s 19,300 council houses trigger around 101,000 housing maintenance enquiries a year ““ over 300 reports a day. It means that on average, each property generates around five calls a year. In reality, around 20 per cent of properties do not generate enquiries, with a further 20 per cent of properties generating 10-12 calls a year.

“Instead of a tenant making up to a dozen calls about their property a year, we want to answer their queries, where possible, from a single point of contact.

“This trial is geared around doing that. It has taken months of detailed planning, involving everyone at the company, from tradesmen to office staff, as well as tenants. It is an exciting opportunity both for us, but more importantly for the customer.

“Our electricians, plumbers and carpenters, as well as residents, have actually helped to design the new contact centre system, and their views have played an integral part in making the pilot happen.

“We have done a mini trial of this work involving 300 properties, and the feedback we have had has been extremely positive.

“We do ask that customers work with us over the first few days and weeks while the new system beds in. If it proves the success we hope it will, we will be looking to roll the initiative out to the other areas of the city too.”

City Independent Group Change Their Leadership Team As They Look To Swell Their Numbers

The City Independent Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council have changed their leadership team as the also look to swell their numbers.

Cllr Brian Ward is to remain as Group Leader but Cllr Dave Conway has been voted in as Deputy Group Leader.

Cllr Conway replaces Cllr Terry Follows who has stepped down to take a break from leadership duties.

The CIG also has the opportunity to swell their number in the wake of losing 3 of their members, Derek Capey, Ian Mitchell and Ann James at the recent local elections.

They are currently considering applications to join from Potteries Alliance Leader Cllr Peter Kent”“Baguley and former BNP group member Cllr Ellie Walker.

Cllr Kent-Baguley lost the other member of his group Geoff Knight at the election and Ellie Walker is looking for a new home following the shock defeat of her husband and former BNP Group Leader Alby Walker in the Abbey Green ward.

Their appointments would increase the number of CIG councillors from 11 to 14.

Sources suggest that the CIG are about to pull away from their coalition with the Conservative & Independent Alliance as they expect the Labour Group to make a bid for the Leadership of the Council.

The CIG are expecting today’s Cabinet meeting to be the last the are involved in.

If the current administration does dissolve, it could lead to a period of uncertainty on the City Council as Pits n Pots sources are suggesting that Labour are favouring continuing in opposition.

Will Alby Defeat The BNP Or Will The BNP Defeat Alby?

    Mike Coleman & Alby Walker Interviews Now On-line

Due to a technical issue we were originally unable to get the interview with Mike Coleman online. We have now rectified this.

Alby Walker is a busy guy. He is contesting both the General and Local Elections as an Independent Candidate.

He is likely to face opposition from his former colleagues in the British National Party.

BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby will be an opponent in the General Elections as will a candidate from the National Front.

Today Stoke-on-Trent BNP Group Leader gave his strongest indication yet that his former boss Alby Walker will face an opponent from the BNP.

Alby Walker will be keen to hang on to his popular vote and will contest the election on his past reputation for getting out there and getting things done for the people of Abbey Green.

The BNP see it slightly differently, they will rely what they see as their core vote.

Mike Coleman thinks the people in the centre of the city will vote for the party rather than the personality.

One thing is for sure, both Alby and his old mates in the BNP both feel that the in-fighting in the Labour Party will help both their causes.

We have two Audio Interviews for you.

The first is with Cllr Alby Walker and the second is with Cllr Mike Coleman.

Mark Fisher MP – Ready For Battle In Stoke-on-Trent Central!

Mark Fisher MP has been serving the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central for 27 years now.

In the past year he has had to endure one of the most difficult period’s in our Country’s political history due to the public outcry at the MPs expense scandal. But, Mark is fiercely proud of what he and the Labour Party have achieved in his time in Parliament.

This week it was confirmed that the BNP’s Deputy Leader Simon Darby, was to fight the General Election for the far right party. Stoke-on-Trent is seen as the ‘jewel in the BNP crown’ and Mr Fishers seat is one that the BNP have identified as definitely winnable.

It was also confirmed yesterday [Friday] the Mark Fisher MP will also face a challenge from former Stoke BNP Group Leader Alby Walker.

Mr Fisher was delighted to hear this news as he believes that this shows that the BNP campaign is in tatters on it’s first day.
Norsheen Bhatti [Conservative] and John Redfern [Liberal Democrat] will also contest the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

In this two-part Video Interview Mark Fisher MP gives his reaction to the news that the BNP are targeting his seat. He also gives his views on a wide range of subjects.

BNP Launch 2010 Election Campaign In Stoke-on-Trent

The British National Party has launched it’s 2010 General Election Campaign here in Stoke-on-Trent.

At a press conference in Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, Party Leader Nick Griffin addressed his party faithful and the assembled media and told them that his party’s campaign demanded the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and a halt to immigration.

The BNP also introduced the three Stoke-on-Trent  Prospective Parliamentary Candidates that would contest the General Election for the far right party, Melanie Baddeley – Stoke North, Simon Darby – Stoke Central and Michael Coleman – Stoke South.

There was also widespread confusion as to whether ex Stoke BNP Group Leader Alby Walker was to stand as an Independent candidate in Stoke-on-Trent Central against the BNP Deputy Leader and Walker’s long time friend, Simon Darby.

Walker had told this website that he would contest the seat if he could find a financial backer. This afternoon he confirmed his intention to contest the election as an Independent to two other members of the media.

This would seem to indicate that he had changed his mind following a telephone conversation with BNP Leader Nick Griffin this morning.

The British National Party has said that it will send thousand of leaflets entitled ‘Support Our Troops – Bring Them Home’ to selected homes in those constituencies where the BNP have a real chance of gaining their first Member of Parliament.

Watch the video interview with BNP Leader Nick Griffin which is completely unedited.

We also Have two audio interviews with BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby and BNP Councillor Michael Coleman respectively.

We will bring you an Interview with Melanie Baddeley at a later date as the one we recorded today is not available due to technical difficulties.

Wol on Alby and the BNP…

Alby Walker’s decision to quit as Leader of the BNP and to not stand for election in 2010, has come as a massive shock to me.

This was out of the blue and totally unexpected. Like others I had heard the rumours of unrest in the BNP Group, but in the meetings I observed, the BNP always seemed as one.

Alby Walker has been a charismatic character in the council chamber for a number of years now. As BNP Group Leader he has instilled in his fellow far right councillors the need to be effective and hands on in the wards that they represent.

The BNP Group have come in for some considerable criticism for contributing little to the council chamber debates.

They were also universally attacked for walking out after Alby Walker was knocked out of the Council Leader election in June, thus depriving the election of 9 votes in the later rounds.

The Walkers have brought credibility to the BNP in this city as they are far from the stereotypical BNP profile. They are a fashionable clean cut couple who are very camera friendly, but criticism has been aimed at them for never talking openly about their parties policies.

There is no doubt that this announcement is a serious blow to the BNP.

Alby Walker was expected to challenge Mark Fisher MP in the General Election for the Stoke Central seat. Abbey Green and Bucknall & Townsend are seen as a BNP strong hold. Many independent commentators believed that if the BNP were to make a parliamentary break through, Stoke Central was a main contender.

But what now for the BNP Group? Well Michael Coleman will take the party reigns in the short term. there will be a Group Meeting between Christmas and the New Years where a permanent leader will be chosen.

Mike Coleman, talking to Pits’n’Pots today said:

"There is no denying that this is a massive blow. Alby is committed to the cause and is a true believer in our politics"

"I am bitterly disappointed that Alby has chosen to step down but I totally accept his reasons. He is one of the guys who if he can’t give something 100%, he will not do it".

"I fully expect Alby to bounce back when he feels that he is ready".

"Contrary to some reports there has not been any falling out within our group. We are completely united".

"We, as a group, will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and carry on serving the electorate and the City".

"Alby will be big boots to fill but we will field a strong candidate in that ward and we still believe we can win it again".

"We have a tremendous amount of work to do over the next few years in preparation for the all out election in 2011. We believe that we can field 30 high quality candidates and we hope to win at least 15 seats"

" We intend to get our message out there and we aim to talk to as many outlets as we can in order to do so"

Alby Walker’s resignation will also come as a blow to the National Party.

Nick Griffin had faith in the work that Alby was carrying out here in Stoke, a city he has described as being the jewel in the BNP’s crown.

Here in Stoke whoever takes over as the leader of the BNP will have their work cut out. The only BNP councillors to talk openly were Alby, Mike Coleman, occasionally Ellie Walker and randomly Steve Batkin.

Ellie Walker has commented today that the Group has lost it’s backbone and I think she is right. Alby was the BNP here in Stoke and whichever direction the party moves in locally, there is a mammoth task ahead.

Opposition groups, especially Labour, will be hoping that the BNP’s bubble has now well and truly burst.

It will certainly give new vigour to the upcoming elections and one would hope that Labour have a candidate that can maximise the situation.

Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent ““ Stormy seas or heading for calmer waters?

I suppose you could say it hasn’t been the easiest time lately for Labour Party activists in Stoke-on-Trent.

The departure of Cllr Dave Conway, the comings and goings of Cllr Joan Bell and Cllr Joy Garner plus Mike Barnes and the “ËœReportergate’ scandal have set the party adrift on stormy seas.

At grass roots level there is the stand off between Stoke Central and the City Party and the constant accusations that the Labour Party is run by the Regional Office West Midlands.

In the last week or so there has also been the outcry at the rejection of a number of senior party members as candidates for the local election in May 2010. This has been fuelled by the acceptance of Joy Garner onto the candidates list. There has been a rumour circulating that Joan Bell had been accepted also, but Joan has telephoned me to tell me that she has no intention of standing in 2010.

Barry Stockley, Terry Crowe, Mick Williams, Gary Elsby and Majid Kahn have all been knocked back in their attempts to make the candidates list.

Strangely all these operate out of Stoke Central and could all make the claim that it is because there is a dispute between their constituency party and the City Party as the main reason for their rejection.

But is this really the case?

Over the weekend I had a very interesting conversation with a very senior party figure who sees it a very different way indeed.

It appears that the Labour Party have a “Ëœtwo year’ plan to re-invent the party in the eyes of the electorate. This Labour Party source confirmed that they are unlikely to field 20 councillors in the upcoming 2010 elections. The party feel that it is more important to have the right candidates representing the party than merely fielding candidates just for the sake of it.

There is a selection criteria and standard that all Labour Candidates have to achieve before they can be appointed to the candidates list. It may be the case that the candidates that have been rejected may well have not reached the standards, or fill the criteria required.

The party, it would seem are willing to accept some damage if the end game can be realised. Whoever is pulling the strings in the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent is willing to take a couple of steps backwards if it means that eventually the party can march forward ““ together.

The candidates from Stoke Central have faced, and been rejected by, the electorate in their chosen wards in the recent past. These candidates were chosen and were presented by, a jury of their Stoke Central peers. It can not be argued that the BNP has prospered in the Centre of our great city.

Could this move by the Party be a positive step to really taking on the the politics of the far right?

The BNP now claim that they are the party of the people and it is they who have usurped the Labour party in their traditional winning grounds.

Whilst Gary Elsby improved his vote last time out, he has failed to remove the candidates and the party he despises the most on successive occasions. Gary has been approved to be on the parliamentary candidates list but has been rejected to stand as a councillor for Stoke-on-Trent this time round.

Barry Stockley and Terry Crowe are seen as damaged goods and have the stigma of the Cultural Quarter and Worldgate added to their long list of achievements. Let it not be forgotten that these two Labour stalwarts did great thing for the city back in the day, but the memories of the electorate is very short. The Cultural Quarter is the finest “Ëœjewel in the crown’ of this city and yet what is remembered the most is the massive overspend and the protracted legal battle.

In the case of Mick Williams it may well be the case that his work for D4S has gotten under the skin of some of the major players from within the Labour Party.

This story has become the issue to watch within the Labour Party. MPs and even Peter Kenyon of the NEC are standing by waiting for the outcome.

As I understand it, most of the candidates are appealing the decision to prevent them standing as councillors in the forthcoming elections.

The end result may well be that some of the Stoke Central party faithful may well be faced to walk the plank, or may even throw themselves overboard over this issue.

This in-party dispute is set to continue and whether there is something in the claims of those rejected is for other people to decide. The Labour party hierarchy seem to have set sail for a destination known only to themselves at the moment. But if that journey delivers more candidates of the caliber of Tom Reynolds, Mark Davis who are young, dynamic and have a vision for this city, then I for one would be more inclined to join the cause and to cast my vote in their direction.

Time will tell, do you support the efforts of the party’s movers and shakers in their stance against candidates that they may well see as “Ëœnot fit for purpose’?