Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Me and my wife were saddened to receive a letter from Longton North Councillor Mark Davis last week informing us that he had decided to stand down as a councillor and will not contest the all out elections in May.

We have known Mark and his wife Jane for a few years and have worked with him on a number of projects in the ward in which we live.

Mark has always been a very hard working and committed councillor and many people who live in Longton North have benefited from his help and enthusiasm. He has been described as a warm and caring councillor who is always willing to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in.

Cllr Davis is one of three Labour Party councillors to serve the good folk of Longton North. He has worked alongside Cllr Tom Reynolds and current Lord Mayor Denver Tolley since Labour managed to gain a clean sweep for Labour with the defeat of the BNP a few years ago.

Mark is married to Jane Heggie who until recently was an integral part of Rob Flello MP’s constituency office.

People in Stoke-on-Trent are in no doubt as to the contribution that Jane and Tom Reynolds made to the running of Rob’s office and his victory at the last General Election in 2010.

Jane and Tom were made redundant by Rob Flello just after that election victory.

This came as a massive shock to Labour activists in Stoke-on-Trent South CLP.

Rob Flello made a number of redundancies in an organisational change that he puts down to the change enforced by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority [IPSA] formed following the MP’s expense scandal.

The Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South still created two full time posts and I believe that he is currently advertising for a third.

Jane and Tom were forced to re-apply for the new posts and for some totally bizarre reason were deemed unsuitable for the new positions.

This decision has played no small part in Cllr Davis’s decision not to stand for election for the Labour Party this May.

I’ve massively enjoyed serving as your councillor, but so many things have changed for Jane and I in the last year or so that I’ve had to think long and hard about whether I want to stand for re-election this year.

Jane being made redundant after the General Election has made us reassess what we are doing and how we manage financially, and obviously, our little boy, Joseph, demands more and more of our time too. After a lot of thought and soul searching we’ve come to the conclusion that it is better if I don’t stand for Council, so that I can concentrate of growing my business ““ something I’ve neglected over the last few years.

Cllr Davis’s decision will mean the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council will have lost one of their most able councillors and someone who was tipped to go far in both the Council and the Labour Party. His decision is yet another by product of the MP’s decision to “Ëœreorganise, his office.

There is no doubt that Stoke-on-Trent South CLP has lost their mojo since Jane Heggie and Tom Reynolds were shown the door by Rob Flello MP. I say this with no disrespect to the new members of staff employed within the constituency office.

Stoke South Labour members are still perplexed and some are totally angry by the actions of the MP in this matter. Indeed a senior member who used to hold an executive position is now helping Tristram Hunt in Stoke Central as a result.

Jane and Tom used to represent Rob Flello at certain meetings. Now those meetings are attended by Rob’s partner who is a volunteer worker at his office.

I am told that campaign organisation is lacking and volunteers are not forthcoming. In short Stoke South has gone from leading the way to the “Ëœalso ran’s’ among the Labour movement in the City.

Anyone who questions why I have chosen this subject as a blog post, let me say this – I was and still am, appalled at the treatment received by Jane and Tom.

This country has just come through the worse recession in living memory.

Businesses have fought the banks that were reluctant to release funds to business. Company leaders have had to cope with a plummeting market place.

There have been many victims in this recession. Many hard working folk were dumped on the dole queue as companies folded under the strain.

I am an operational Managing Director who, with my group colleagues across the country, fought tooth and nail to keep our staff employed. We were aware of our responsibilities and that fact that our staff had families and mortgages to pay.

We got through it without making a single redundancy, which for a company that relies on the manufacturing sector, I am immensely proud of.

I have never hid the fact that I consider myself to be a socialist and to witness a Labour MP use the change in MP’s expense rules to making redundancies has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Whilst I totally accept that Rob Flello MP acted within the law and did no wrong in relation to employment law, I have come to the conclusion that he must be a very different kind of socialist to me.

One party member said to me recently that he thought the actions in Stoke South over last summer brought socialism into disrepute.

It is a great testament to Jane and Tom that their involvement with the constituency Labour party continues and they remain committed to seeing a majority of Labour Councillors in the Council Chamber post election.

Those Labour benches will be missing one of their most capable however.

I wish Mark and his family all the very best for the future and on behalf of the good folk of Longton North, I say thank you for all your efforts.

Altogether Company Brings Apprentice Style Project To Stoke-on-Trent

The Stoke On Trent Apprentice challenge is a brand new Ward funded summer youth project aimed at young people aged between 13 -19.

The project will see up to and possibly more than 100 youngsters from 6 different council wards – Longton North and South, Meir Park and Sandon, Blurton, Weston and Meir north and Trent Vale working together to start their very own businesses.

Each week they will meet at Fenton Manor to be set a challenge related to their business start-up. Then they will meet in locations within their ward areas to be mentored in the stages of setting up by the company directors at Altogether who have experience of setting up business at a young age.

They will run their business throughout the summer and the winners of each week’s prize will be invited to a prize day each Friday.

I went to Longton High School’s City Learning Centre to meet Ben Dyer from Altogether Company. Watch the video below to hear about this inspiring project.

I also spoke to some of the potential ‘Alan Sugar’s’ who had set up a wide range of companies with ambitions portfolios to entice the potential investors into parting with some advice and some cash. Listen to the Audio below:

Stoke-on-Trent City Council -From Inside The Chamber, Annual Council Meeting Part1

Part 1 – Denver Becomes Stoke-on-Trent’s 1st Citizen.

Longton North Councillor Denver Tolley was voted in as the new Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent. The announcement came at today’s [Thursday] Annual Council Meeting. Cllr Mohammed Matloob was voted in as Deputy Lord Mayor. Cllr Terry Follows proposed Cllr Tolley and in doing so he paid tribute to the popular Labour councillor. He told the assembled members in the chamber that Cllr Tolley would represent the whole of the City and all of it’s people. Cllr Ross Irving seconded the motion. He said that Cllr Tolley was committed to the City and had always fought it’s corner from the days when Denver served as a county councillor. Cllr Irving also said that Denver and his charming wife Lynne would work tirelessly in the office of Lord Mayor and that he could think of no better 1st citizen for the City of Stoke-on-Trent. The motion was carried unanimously, no one voted against and no one abstained.

There was then a small recess whist the out going Lord Mayor, Cllr Jean Bowers handed over to the newly elected Cllr Denver Tolley. Denver entered the council chamber in the full Lord Mayors regalia and to rapturous applause. He was clearly emotional as he proceeded to read out the Lord Mayor’s declaration of acceptance. Denver then made a short speech where he confirmed that his chosen charities will be, Arch (North Staffordshire), which provides advice and accommodation for the homeless or potentially homeless; the <>North Staffordshire Special Olympics, which helps children and young people with learning disabilities develop their sporting and social skills; and the Beatrice Charity which gives children with special needs the chance to experience days out on the area’s canals.

He will also support smaller charities throughout the year. Denver told those assembled in the chamber that it was a great honour to serve the people of Stoke-on-Trent. His theme for the year was people and he said that he was proud of the diversity among the communities in the City. Denver reminded everyone that the people of Stoke-on-Trent were the warmest and friendliest in the country.

Cllr Joy Garner [Lab] moved a motion of thanks to the outgoing Lord Mayor Cllr Jean Bowers. She reminded Cllr Bowers of some of the highlights of her year in office such as the Staffordshire Hoard coming to the Potteries Museum, the Citizen of the Century, meeting Mohammed Ali and the Federation Dinner. Cllr Garner told the chamber that she thought that Cllr Jean Bowers would best be re mered for trying to install respect back to the chamber. She reminded them that one of Cllr Bowers rule changes was the banning of mobile phones in the Council Chamber and how the first victim of the rule change was Cllr Garner herself. Her mobile phone went off and she was asked to leave the chamber for 15 minutes as a punishment. Cllr Clive Bryan seconded the motion of thanks and echoed Cllr Garners sentiments.

 In an emotional response Cllr Jean Bowers thanked Cllr Garner and Cllr Bryan for their kind words. She told the chamber that she thought she had been right to try to bring respect back, not to her or the office of Lord Mayor, but to the chamber. She conceded that she had not had the backing of all the councillors when she was nominated but since then a number of councillors had approached her to say that they were among those who had doubted that she was suitable to the role of Lord Mayor but had now realised that they were wrong.

She bestowed a gift of a plate depicting the cultural and industrial heritage of Stoke-on-Trent upon the City as the out-going Lord Mayor. The plate had been deigned by her niece Sabrina who had served as Lady Mayoress during her time in office. Cllr Bowers told the members of the council that the job of chairing the council meeting was not an easy task. She said that it was made more difficult by the fact that all councillors thought they were right all of the time. She reminded them that councillors do not get it right all the time and that they made judgements on behalf of the people they represent. She finished off by telling everyone that in her year in office she had raised in the region of £17,000 for her chosen charities. The meeting then adjourned for half an hour.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council – A Long Week Ahead!

I must be really sad me! But, I have to say I’m really looking forward to this week and reporting on the shenanigans of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Thursday’s Annual Council meeting should be a belter.

The first task is to confirm Cllr Denver Tolley as the new Lord Mayor. I have known Denver for a few years and I can honestly say I have yet to meet a single person who has anything bad to say about the guy.

Denver serves the Longton North ward and is respected by all. His wife Lynne will be Lady Mayoress and I have no doubt that she will prove to be one of the most glamorous the City has had for years.

They are both brilliant with people ans will be a massive hit whatever functions they are requested to attend.

The main event on Thursday however, is the election of the new Council Leader.

I think it is widely expected to be Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez. I tip his deputy to be Cllr Ross Irving, the current Leader of the council and Leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance.

This will mean that there will be at least a two party coalition.

Which means that we may not get the four party coalition that Pervez had hoped for last week.

You see, it’s all about cabinet places and portfolio positions.

For a four party coalition to work, I estimate that the Labour Group will want to retain at least 5 cabinet places.

This will leave 5 cabinet places to be divvied up between the CIG, CIA and Lib Dems.

Kieran Clarke has been made to play the Hokey Cokey by his group as he has been in/out a few times all he needs to do now is to shake it all about. My sources tell me he is in at the moment.

It is known that the Lib Dem group were hesitant about Kieran carrying on the cabinet portfolio for resources given the amount of cuts that are set to bite hard.

The Conservative were very reluctant to enter into another coalition with the City Independents, But as I understand it today there are a couple of cabinet positions on offer to the CIG and the CIA groups.

Whether the CIG accept these is another matter and is very much down to what portfolios are up for grabs. I understand it that the CIG will be unwilling to accept the more controversial portfolios such as Children & Young Peoples Services, which has been something of a poisoned chalice.

The Labour cabinet members are being held closely under wraps. But, I expect a mixture of experience and new blood on there.

So you can see that negotiations will be ongoing throughout the coming week.

At Pits n Pots we are keeping our ears close to the ground and we will be covering the Annual Council live on Thursday.

Denver Will Go To The Ball – The Lord Mayors Ball!

Denver Tolley has served the City of Stoke-on-Trent since 1996. Before that he also served as a county councillor.

Denver is a ward councillor that serves with distinction. He is respected by everyone, both in the ward of Longton North and in the council chamber.

I have yet to meet anyone who has a bad word for the guy.

He is also Deputy Lord Mayor and is due to undertake the highest of civic offices at the end of this month when Cllr Jean Bowers completes her year in office.

Denver was re-elected to serve as a councillor on Thursday with a massive majority of 1164,the highest winning margin in the entire election.

He has a great team working with him, Cllr Tom Reynolds, Cllr Mark Davis and support from people like Jane Heggie & Ann Harvey.

They have all made a massive difference to the lives of the electorate in Longton North by using their ward budget wisely and tackling anti-social behaviour head on.

On a day that saw the Labour Party in this City buck the national trend to take 17 out of the 20 seats available, Denver’s victory was an emotional one.

Anyone who who knows Denv realises that he will put his heart in soul into being the best Lord Mayor he can be, ably assisted by his lovely wife Lynne.

Listen to the Audio Interview below. Denver gets a bit choked up towards the end. To me it is refreshing to see an elected representative that cares so much and is so proud to represent our City in the ambassadorial role that is integral to the office of Lord Mayor.

500 Words – James Whitehurst the Conservative Candidate for Longton North

**Archive Story From 2010 Election**

I have lived and worked in the city all my life and I am standing for election because I want to put something back into the local community where I grew up.

Contrary to many peoples perceptions of Conservative’s in general, I have never been well off or well to do. After leaving school (Edensor High) I went straight into the world of work and was an agency worker for a while at a number of short-term, low pay contracts. I studied at Newcastle College for a qualification in computing and later took work in administrative duties, catering and warehousing.

Unfortunately, I suffered a serious road accident several years ago and have since been off work. However, I have been keeping busy by giving my time voluntarily for the City Conservative’s. I want to help to make the city a better place to live for everyone. I have the time and the ability to be an excellent ward councillor given the opportunity to serve. I will not be one of those who are only ever seen at election time, I want to be a representative of the people of Longton North and Meir Hay all year round.

My main priorities are to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime by working closely with the police and making the streets safer for our children. I am also very concerned about the lack of facilities for elderly and young people-the two groups of society that are too often ignored by government.

I have also been appalled by the state of our roads, particularly following the bad winter that we have just had. It is no good simply papering over the cracks, we need a radical overhaul in the mindset at the Town Hall to invest for the future.

I believe that the local authority has a duty to deliver value for money and excellent public service. Unfortunately, I think that we are being badly let down because we are trying to do too much and we are doing it badly. If other Conservative local authorities can deliver better services than us and still cut their council tax, then why can’t we?

I am also encouraged by the Conservative commitment to address the asylum and immigration fiasco that Labour has perpetuated in office for far too long. It is not racist to say that the system is failing; neither is it racist to say that there must be greater control on who can come into the country and settle or work here. I will lobby government for greater controls as a priority. But neither must we-as some parties do-seek to exaggerate the problems that DO exist and play on them for electoral purposes. Immigration is a big issue for the people of Meir Hay and Longton North. I have listened and I agree with peoples concerns that something must be done.

It is also an opportunity to send a message to government that we will no longer be taken for granted on the issue of Europe. I am encouraged by the Conservative commitment to introduce a Sovereignty Act that would force future governments to ask the people before giving more powers away. But this is not in my view enough. It is time for people to have a say on whether or not to remain in the EU. I believe that Britain can flourish outside the EU by making the most of our relationship with all parts of the globe and not just with the European continent.

Not everything Labour has done has been bad. To pretend that it is would be childish and irresponsible. For example, I have long supported the minimum wage and I am delighted that the Conservative Party supports it too. But it is now time for a change. We need a new broom through the town hall to rejuvenate our local government. Its time to look forward to what we can achieve together.

500 Words – Denver Tolley the Labour Candidate for Longton North

**Archive Story From 2010 Election**

I’ve served the Longton North area for more than twenty years now in one way or another. I live here, and I love the place.

Over the last few years, with my fellow Labour Councillors, Tom Reynolds and Mark Davis, I’ve worked hard to improve things, but also to keep people in touch with what we’re doing. This is something I intend to keep pushing if I’m re-elected.

There have been a lot of changes over the years, and one I’ve really welcomed has been the introduction of the ward budgets ““ it means we’ve finally got some of the things that I’ve been fighting for over years ““ it also means we’ve been able to focus on the things local people have told us are their priorities.

A couple of years ago Longton North had a really bad anti-social behaviour problem ““ so bad that the police imposed Section 30 dispersal orders – but since then things have started to improve. We’ve put money into extra policing, we’ve got youth services out on the streets, and we’ve made sure the Council use the tough new powers they’ve been given by the Labour Government to tackle nuisance neighbours and things like litter louts and fly-tippers. Now I’m not saying everything is perfect ““ we still have too many gangs of kids hanging around on street corners, too much graffiti, too much litter ““ but things are getting better and I want to see that continue. Particularly with the summer months coming up we shouldn’t become complacent.

Our Town Centre is still strong, but needs building up. I’m proud to serve on the Longton Regeneration Board, which is working with local people to create plans for the future of the town. There are lots of exciting things coming forward, but sadly too many things are out of our hands. The Council had to fight for years to get the old burnt out bakers shop knocked down in The Strand, because it was in private hands. I’d love to see the Railway Bridge painted and I’ve been working with Rob Flello on this, but until Network Rail give the go ahead nothing can happen. There are too many derelict buildings that need to come down, but their owners aren’t cooperating with us.

I have had the honour of being Deputy Lord Mayor for the past 12 months and it has given me the opportunity to see the talent, good work and pride within our City.

We’ve got lots of choices in front of us as an area ““ particularly the issue of the new High school to serve our area and I want to see a school on the Mitchell site to serve Bentilee and another school, possibly on one of the current sites, to serve our young people. Big decisions like this need local knowledge and experience – things I’ve got a plenty of ““ I hope I’ll get the chance to carry on serving the people of Longton North and the City.

500 Words From Sheila Cowell Independent Candidate Longton North

**Archive Story From 2010 Election**

Hello – Sheila Cowell here, Independent NEW candidate for Longton North Ward. I am a 54 year old woman, born and brought up in this ward, have lived on Meir Hay for 15 years now, having moved here from Ashwood, also in this ward. My working life has been mainly in office and sales management, following a number of years as a china flower maker when my children were young. I have also been made redundant a number of times over the years and understand very well the problems associated with being out of work. I am mum to 4 and grandma to 2 and I see my long term future, as well as my past as being in this ward. I care!

I decided I wanted to become involved in local government when I began to take a particular interest in what was happening at the council, through reading various Sentinel articles, and speaking to friends who come into contact with, or work at the council.
I often found myself angry, staggered and in disbelief at the stories I read and heard. I also read with interest the comments on pits n pots, and Sentinel letters. It was last year when I was unable to work due to osteoarthritis, awaiting a total knee replacement, that I started to realise how isolating being housebound is, and not being good at being inactive. I put my brain into overdrive, trying to think how I could reach out to other people in the ‘same boat’. My interest in community involvement was born and I decided to try and find local groups or residents associations to join. It seems that if there are any, they are keeping themselves very well hidden. I was unable to find any Meir Hay based groups. It was around this time a friend who is a councillor suggested I may be interested in becoming a councillor. I was unsure, so I signed up for a course at Staffs University called ‘Taking Part’.
The course gave a valuable insight into becoming involved in the local community, and it encouraged participants to examine their reasons for becoming involved, and identified the most suitable path depending on their interests. I realised that I want to be able to talk to people in the local community, find out what their views and needs are, and what they want and expect from the council. I am surprised never to have seen or heard from my local councillors, and it appears that few genuine attempts are made to engage with and inform local residents, and communication is woefully inadequate. I feel that a female addition to the councillors on the Longton North Ward would bring balance and add a new dimension. My aim if I am elected, is to find a way to communicate effectively with all residents, find out what their needs and concerns are, maybe through a local news letter and website, and then set about helping build a strong informed community, who can be sure their views on council proposals and performance are being transmitted to the council Loud and Clear. I am excited and enthusiastic at the prospect of joining the council, about bringing a fresh point of view, with the determination to bring change for the better, and a ‘no nonsense’ approach to local government at this most critical time. I am fully committed and ready to listen and learn, and take appropriate action on behalf of Longton North Ward and the City of Stoke on Trent generally.

We are asking each and every candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent local election if they would like to write 500 words about themselves their reasons for standing and their campaign. You can view all 500 word articles by clicking here 500 words

Park Progress and Refreshment Rage

Happily, there is some great news from the CHAD Park Partnership.

The builders have now moved on site to start the new Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) at the side of Gladstone Primary and it should be completed in a couple of months. The MUGA will include 5 a side and basketball equipment, and will also be marked out for other sports. It’ll have two gates, one attached to the school and one accessible for the public. During school hours the court will be exclusively for the use of Gladstone, but out of hours it will be accessible for the whole of the community to use.

The project has been made possible thanks to pro bono work by Mansell (the Gladstone School building contractors) with match funding raised from grants and ward budget bids by Partnership Chair, Sue Rammell and the school’s Youth Forum. The really great thing about the scheme is that it has been made possible by the whole community coming together to drive it forward: young people, parents, grandparents and councillors. However special credit needs to be given to Sue Rammell and Dave Eaglestone (Gladstone School Build Manager) whose tireless efforts and negotiations with the Sport England, City Planners and Funding Bodies are finally paying off.

And things get better ““ thanks to resources that have been made available the MUGA will now also feature a lighting system that will make it useable all year round. Also, work is beginning for a new under 10s play area at Anchor Road Rec. People who know the area will know the shocking state of the play equipment there ““ now a new naturalised play park is being installed using play-builder finance.

Also I think its worth mentioning a leading story in the Sentinel this week, regarding proposed savings from cutting the refreshments at meetings at the civic. Cllr Kieran Clarke thinks that £20k can be saved by introducing a “Ëœrefreshments policy’. That got me thinking about a couple of things.

Firstly, which meetings have refreshments to that value in the first place? I’ve never even seen coffee and tea at O&S meetings!

Secondly, and more to the point, why is a “Ëœpolicy’ being considered? When cutting valued services across the city and cherished facilities are being put forward by the Cabinet, it should go without saying that drinks and butties at the Civic be cut back completely. I was also a little bemused by the outraged responses of the Councillors that commented in the Sentinel’s coverage. Difficult budgetary decisions will have to be made in the coming months, but before I’m asked to vote on a closure for Tunstall or Shelton Pool I want to know that everything has been done to trim the fat in the authority. Perks for Members and Officers like snacks at meetings should be first on the chopping block, so let’s not shilly-shally around with a “Ëœrefreshments policy’.

Contamination could KO Springfield Academy plans!


A meeting of the Children & Young Peoples Overview & Scrutiny Committee today raised major concerns about the proposal to build an academy types school on a greenfield site in Adderley Green.

Committee Chair Cllr Michael Coleman allowed a representative of the Springfield Action Group, Ian Jenkin, to address the meeting.

During his presentation Mr Jenkin raised an issue relating to the contamination of the proposed site and indicated that he had been told by someone who had a working knowledge of such matters that the contamination levels were so bad that it would take millions of pounds to rectify the problem.

He informed the meeting that if the land was left alone there would be no danger to the users of the site. He warned the committee that the moment the diggers roll on site and start moving the earth the contamination would come to the surface and become a danger to all the community.

He also told the meeting that the community was massively against this proposal and urged to council to look at alternative sites such as, Mossfield Road, the old Wilfield High School site and the Mitchell High site.

Cllr Denver Tolley also spoke in support of the community and he told the committee that this was not a case of NIMBYism and that the community were not against and educational facility for the area. But he believed that the Springfield site was not the best site available.

Director of CYPS Ged Rowney defended the proposals to build on Springfield and stated that the Academy sponsor preferred the Springfield site. But he also said that the Parkhall site [Gasometer] was also a strong contender.

Mr Rowney also voiced concerns over the reported levels of contamination and he stressed that the issue needed to be looked into further so that the exact fact could be determined.

At the end of the meeting the chair put four recommendations before the committee to vote on

1] That the levels of contamination’s warranted further investigation and the cost of dealing with it be ascertained.

2] That the committee consider the Springfield site completely unsuitable for the building of any school.

3] That the BSF proposals were extended and involved more members of the public that might be effected by the building of a new school in their area. This issue was particularly relevant to those areas that were to benefit from a proposed new school.

4] That the committee re-confirm their support for a new school to be built on the site of the current Mitchel High School to serve the areas of Bucknall, Berryhill, Bentilee and Abbey Hulton.

These recommendations accepted by a majority vote and will now go forward to the Cabinet for consideration.
Nicky Davis will also blog in further detail on the events of the meeting.

Watch the video below, Chair of the CYPO&S committee
Michael Coleman gives us his reaction to the meeting.

Click on the link at the bottom to watch a video interview with the Vice Chair of the Springfield Action Group Ian Jenkin on the Pits’n’Pots You Tube Channel.