Police retention of DNA

I was interested to read of research carried out by the Conservatives of retention rates of innocent people from individual police forces of DNA vary considerably.

There are about 1 million innocent people who are in this position

Individuals who have been arrested but never charged face a postcode lottery over whether their DNA will be retained on a national database

FOI requests to police forces by Conservative immigration spokesman, Damian Green, reveal a huge disparity in the way records are treated. South Yorkshire is the police force most like to remove an innocent persons DNA profile whilst the neighbouring Police Authority of Nottingham refuse to remove any profiles.

Green himself succesfully requested the removal of his DNA following his arrest by the Metropolitian Police in 2008.

Staffordshire removed half the requests for the removal of DNA profile while in Cheshire the figure was under 20%

Staffordshire Police did court controversy in April 2008 when senior judges ruled that a child whose DNA was forcibly sampled when he voluntarily attended at a Staffordshire police station to help with their enquiries could challenge the decision to hold the samples permanently in a judicial review test case. The Court’s ultimate decision has implications for the estimated 100,000 other children whose DNA is held permanently by the police even though they have been neither cautioned for nor convicted of an offence.

It is more than a year since European courts ruled that the blanket and indefinite retention of DNA profiles of people in England and Wales who have been arrested, but not charged breached the human rights of individuals

Chief constables have the power to decide whether to delete an individual’s DNA record. The latest guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers advises them not to delete individual profiles until parliament agrees new guidance.

The Government now want to keep the DNA profiles of innocent people on the national database for six years, after failing to persuade MPs to support a period of up to 12 years for the most serious offences. But it is likely to take time to change the law and the results of the Tories requests show that in the meantime there are major differences in practice.

Ditch Norsheen and the Conservatives could go ‘belly’ up!

Shock! Horror! Probe! Conservative PPC for Stoke-on-Trent Central earns £260 per hour as a belly dancer! – So What?

Norsheen Bhatti chosen by the Conservatives to fight for Labour stalwart Mark Fisher’s seat at the next election is on the books of a London agency as a belly dancer. And guess what? – She even bares her midriff!

Now David Cameron and his party are considering dropping Norsheen Bhatti in fear that she will now not be taken seriously as a politician.

Are they having a laugh or what?

Over the last year Mps have brought the houses of Parliament into disrepute. The expense scandal has driven the reputation of politicians in this Country to an all time low. We have had claims for duck houses, moats, second home flipping and Mps resigning in shame.

Along comes a beautiful young lady who proves that she is not your average politician and her party want to ditch her.

I say, go girl!

David Cameron needs to get into his expensive car and take a ride up to Stoke-on-Trent Central and ask the electorate if they are bothered by the fact that Norsheen Bhatti earns a bit of spare cash as a belly dancer. I think he will find that people are not in the slightest bit bothered by the fact. He may well find that Norsheen will received like a breath of fresh air.

Cameron has to wise up here. Stoke-on-Trent is a political hot bed for the BNP. They are seen as the real threat in Stoke-on-Trent Central. This City is seen as the jewel in the BNP crown.

Along comes Norsheen Bhatti, born in this Country of Pakistani parents. But more importantly, she breaks the stereotypical image of Asian women peddled by the BNP.

Norsheen’s street cred will rocket through the roof after this revelation. The Conservatives need to capitalise on that.

There is a certain public perception of Tories here in Stoke-on-Trent that goes back to the miners strike in the 80′s and even before. Tories are seen as plum in the gob stuck up Hooray Henry’s, who come across with a ‘I am mightier than thou’ image.

If the Conservatives are to make any sort of impact here in Stoke-on-Trent they have to challenge their own stereotypical image.

They face a massive battle for middle England, well Dave let me tell you, they don’t come more middle than Stoke-on-Trent.

Ditch Norsheen at your peril, she could just be the breakthrough that you so desperately need.

Graham Hemmings MBE

Congratulations to Graham Hemmings

Graham Hemmings has been awarded the OBE for services to Grass Roots Football.

Mr Hemmings became the chairman of Blurton Ladsanddads football league in 1968.

Other people from Stoke-on-Trent who have been honoured in the list are:

Charles Anthony GREEN For voluntary service to Industrial Heritage in the Staffordshire potteries. (Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire)

John Harold MORRIS For services to the Post Office. (Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire)

Also honoured was

Derek John DAVIS Lately Chairman, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Combined Fire Authority.

How many consultants does it take to work out how many consultants the City Council employs?

As the first decade of the C21st century slides its way into history, a Freedom of Information (F.O.I.) question directed to Stoke-on-Trent City Council is stonewalled on the trumped up excuse that “we estimate that the cost of complying with your request would be more than £450.”

Most people, I am sure, will be amazed that a City Councillor was obliged to submit a F.O.I. question anyway!

So what was this ever so difficult data requested that would cost far too much to locate?

Cllr Michael Barnes’ questions were:

1. How many Consultants currently work for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, including NSRP?

2. How much is the total estimated cost of these consultants for this financial year 2009/10?

3. How many individual consultants or interim officers are currently paid more than £500 per day (or equivalent based on a normal officer hours) by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council or the NSRP? Please include those employed for doing only 1 day (example) per week and earning more than £500 for that week.

4. How many individual consultants or interim officers have been paid more than £500 per day (or equivalent based on a normal officer hours) by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council or the NSRP and have now left, and what is their total cost?

Part of the officer’ response states: “Information currently held by the finance department only relates to September 2009 and will not provide an accurate account of the costs…”

If it were the case that the finance department held the information only for September 2009, then obviously it would be useless for Cllr Barnes’ questions but how can it be possible that the statement is accurate. Of course it is not.

The information for questions 1 & 2 was recently provided for the Member/Officer Working Group on Consultants. I am a member of that group. The names of consultants was included in the spreadsheet circulated at the meeting but officers insisted, with the support of the Council Leader (who chairs the group), that all names be deleted from the spreadsheet we were allowed to keep. So, I cannot say how many consultants were listed but the point is that information would cost little more than 20p of some officer’s time to retrieve!

The total forecast cost for the current financial year (2009-2010) is £2,310,324.

This information related only to consultants paid via the Council’s General Fund, ie the main Revenue Budget. We requested information about all other consultants employed but paid for by various grants. That information should be presented at our next meeting in January.

Employment of consultants is not, in every case, avoidable and unnecessary but on the vast scale that the City Council employs them it is entirely avoidable and totally unnecessary.

Far from admitting or pretending that the data requested is so scattered, deeply embedded and practically impossible to collate the senior officers should be making sure that such data is gathered together, regularly updated, monitored and available for scrutiny and analysis.

By the way, the best answers to this end of decade festive time question title of this posting will be in line for a very tasty Co-op Fairtrade chocolate torte.

The year in review ““ January through to March

Well it’s that time of year again reader. Out with the old and in with the new.

2009 was a difficult year for many people, the recession, many people on short time working or worse still losing their jobs.

A government reluctant to accept that the global economy was in melt down and the inevitability that recession would surely follow in the UK.

January

Locally the start of the year could not have started any worse for those people who relied on the Pottery giants Wedgwood for their livelihood.

The Barlaston based company announced that they had called in the receivers at the end of the Christmas shut down. It marked the beginning of the end for a company that had been on the City’s landscape for some 250 years.

Education chiefs announced that they would issue the closure notice for Trentham High school a whole year earlier than had previously been proposed. This move only served to further galvanise the Trentham Action Group in their fight to save their community school.

Craig Pond, then the Chair of the Stoke BNP Policy group, outraged the City by writing an article on what he claimed was the proposal to build permanent and temporary ‘Traveller Camps’ he lambasted the ‘Traveller’ community and described them as ‘lying, thieving, no good, trouble making scum!’ he went on to state that we have ‘been gifted with so many thieving pikeys from abroad, we round up ours and send them to Romania!’ This article drew a massive response and pits’n’pots was roundly criticised for publishing it. It also angered the then Stoke BNP group Leader Alby Walker.

January also saw three City Councillors reprimanded for failing to undertake a standard CRB check. Gavin Webb held out because he believed that the CRB check that his employers had undertaken on him should suffice. Lee Wanger was having problems trying to prove who he was as he had no passport or driving license. Geoff Knight had been ill and had not been well enough to go through the process. All three eventually complied.

Gav being Gav kicked up a real fuss about the CRB requirement and told the City that he didn’t agree with these kind of checks. He also gave his first clue that he was heading towards the Libertarians in a blog article.

Jean Bowers EMB for Adult Services announced that there would be changes to the Life Line service provided to the elderly. The old type pull chord system was to be replaced with pendants. There were obvious benefits to the new system such as ‘fall detectors’ but it also meant that more people would be required to pay for the service.

The 22nd January heralded D-Day for the Trentham Action Group. A meeting of the EMB descended into chaos when TAG members staged a sit down protest. The protest followed constant refusal by the Elected Mayor Mark Meredith to allow TAG Chair Daniel Jordan to address the meeting. Mayor Meredith acted like a dictator in that meeting and just before the vote to merge THS and Blurton HS, Mr Jordan made one last attempt to speak out. Mayor Meredith ordered two burly security guards to escort Mr Jordan out of the room. Mr Jordan was having none of it and promptly staged a sit in. He was joined by many TAG supporters. The EMB concluded the meeting behind closed doors. It was without doubt the most tense meeting that we have covered for PnP and we were there to capture pictures and audio from the meeting as the action unfolded.

At the Full Council meeting at the end of January, the constitution for a chamber under the Leader and Cabinet system was revealed. Outgoing EM Mark Meredith clashed with Cllr Mick Salih at the proposal to introduce a paid Chair for the NSRP for when Meredith vacated the position.
The month began with the administration of Wedgwood and finished with the shock announcement that North Staffs Race Equality Council had called in the administrators. The REC closed it’s doors after 30 years service to the city.

February

The beginning of February saw Mike and I attend a press launch in the snow to publicise the proposed face lift of the Potteries Way. £1.8million was to be spent on new Hundreds of new trees and hedges, 53 new street light columns and 212 colourful image panels attached to the lighting columns. This work was to be started immediately and was to be finished by April ’09. Eight months later and the work has yet to be completed.

BNP Leader Alby Walker called for an independent audit of the North Staffs REC accounts by the City Council. He added that the absence of a Service Level agreement had cast doubts on the REC’ financial dealings and he demanded to know what the money given by Stoke on Trent city council had been used for. He also suggested that the REC had been guilty of letting third parties like Unite Against Fascism, and the North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, use their building free of charge to defeat the BNP.

In contrast, PnP team member Tideswellman penned an article that exposed his thoughts on ‘Who the BNP really are’. This article drew a massive response and to this day remains one of our most viewed.

February also witnessed an attempt to save Wedgwood by members of the Wedgwood family. This campaign was backed by Stoke South MP Rob Flello and after a valiant attempt, the move was doomed to failure.

The TAG announced that some of their members would cycle to Strasbourg to deliver a petition to the European Parliament.

EMB Member Joan Bell announced that after taking the views of the Improving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, she had decided to revise plans for the raising of car park charges. Originally, charges were to rise by up to 40p per hour. Bell went with the scrutiny recommendations and opted for a staged rise in parking charges. Ironically, these rises were never implemented and would come back to bite officers in the rear later in the year.

The Coachmakers Arms featured predominately in the news in February. The campaign to save the popular city centre watering hole was gathering pace. Plans for a proposed visit to the pub by councillors were altered at the 11th hour to avoid a demonstration by pub regulars and supporters.

They opted instead to view the pub from the relative safety of the balcony of the near by Victoria Hall. Then it was back to the Civic to wield the expected axe over this award wining pub.

The proverbial hit the fan with our decision to publish another article from Stoke BNP policy group Chair Craig Pond. This one was entitled ‘Wasted Money’ and essentially it was a list of council funded projects and groups. Many of the groups were ethnic minority or disabled groups and Craig left us in no doubt of what he and the BNP thought of this use of public money. The article gab=ve the local BNP a few problems, and it emerged that Ellie Walker [wife of group Leader Alby] had relatives that had benefited from the work of one of the groups that Craig had slated. There was trouble ahead…

February also saw the announcement that the Audit Commission were to investigate the selling of the shares owned by the City Council to Stoke City FC. We are still waiting for the result despite repeated calls for information from Cllr Mike Barnes.

Trentham Gardens also announced that they were to charge for the Lake Walk. The walk would also take in the Italian Gardens. A Facebook group was formed and within weeks a large number of people had joined the campaign against the charges.

The BNP, the CIG and some other members of the council had walked out of the council chamber ahead of a vote to implement a series of measure designed to help businesses through the recession. The unrest was caused by what was perceived to be a lack of detailed information on which companies would qualify for the assistance. Officers of the council would have the ultimate say in which companies would benefit from these measures.

It was also agreed in February that the Mitchell Memorial Theatre would get a complete refurbishment.

Sunday 22nd February saw a 1000 demonstrators descend on Trentham Gardens in protest at the implementation of charges for the Lake walk. To his credit Trentham Director Mike Herbert was in attendance and faced his critics. He also conducted media interviews. The decision to implement the charges was largely vindicated as visitor number increased over the year 2009.

The City Council accepted the Corporate Plan with the exception of the BNP. They failed to table any alternative, but did say the plan would be very different if they were in charge. That response drew widespread condemnation for all sides of the council chamber.

March

Well March started with a bang! The arrest of Roger Ibbs right at the end of February hit the headlines, but the details were sketchy.

Here at Pits’n’Pots our legal team advised us to report that a prominent councillor had been arrested but no more. This was a move that paid off, as we were the first to get an exclusive statement from Roger Ibbs. His statement said: “I am sure everyone realises that this is a most difficult time for me and my family, particularly because I cannot go into detail as to the reasons why I am helping the Police with their enquiries. As I have explained it is impossible for me to comment in detail on an ongoing police enquiry but I do believe that some broad explanation should be made before people jump to the wrong conclusions. These enquiries came about following a complaint I made to the council. It is nothing to do with the BSF proposals for Education. It is about actions that started over 12 months ago when I held a different responsibility but has nothing to do with that area of responsibility either. I willingly helped the Police on Friday and will willingly continue to do so”.

This was enough to start the speculation. People very quickly formed the opinion that this was all to do with the attempted closure of the Dimensions leisure pool. This was confirmed by the arrest of the Elected Mayor Mark Meredith exactly one week later.

Meanwhile, all was not well with Stoke BNP. Craig Pond announced his shock resignation from the party. He cited a difference of opinion with the local party hierarchy. There were rumours abound that the party leadership was less than impressed with Craig’s articles on PNP which had outraged Alby as these articles were not in keeping with the image that Alby was trying to portray of the BNP.

Back to the Roger Ibbs saga. It was announced that Ross Irving would take the party helm following Roger’s decision to step down from all council duties apart from his attendance at full council meetings. This meant that EM Mark Meredith would take over the responsibility for the BSF process. This move however, was to be very short lived, following Meredith’s subsequent arrest in the same police investigation. Ironically Meredith had heralded Ibbs’s decision to step down.

We had aired our first ‘Leadership Special’ interview with Mike Barnes which had massive viewing figures. We were planning many more and committed to putting them on the site unedited. The uptake was fantastic, with one exception ““ Alby Walker! He blatantly refused to allow us to film or record an interview with him. We decided not to ask him again.

The TAG were still fighting strongly to save their school and there was talk of legal action. I knew at this stage that Rob Flello MP was working in the background lobbying ministers in Parliament.

Following the arrest of Mark Meredith, our very own Matt Taylor wrote an article calling for the EM to follow the precedent made by Roger Ibbs and resign. Exactly two days later, Meredith resigned and stepped down from all his political duties including overseeing the BSF project, Chair of the NSRP and he was temporarily suspended from the Labour Party. Amazingly he held onto the position of Elected Mayor and the salary that came with it!

Mohammed Pervez, as Deputy Elected Mayor, stepped in to fulfil the duties vacated by Mark Meredith. There was a media gathering organised to allow the press to put questions to Chris Harman and Pervez. Pnp were not allowed to interview the pair and were barred from the press gathering on the instruction of Dan Barton Head of Communications. This really set the tone for our tempestuous relationship with the media department at our city council.

March was the month that PnP started to get some national recognition. Several national dailies picked up PnP contributor Plane Jane’s article of the mis-use of the Spitfire by the BNP. We remain truly proud of this article.
It was during March that our sources started indicating that Government were about to intervene in the running of this city as they were becoming completely frustrated at the failure to reach a clear cut decision on the implementation of all out elections.

March also witnessed the official merger of Pits’n’Pots and the Radical Press. An upgrade to the web site followed and the site was again receiving recognition for the quality it was producing.

Towards the end of March we saw the very sad announcement of the death of former councillor and wife of Terry, Christine Follows.

Nationally the Mps’ expense scandal was gathering momentum. Revelations were coming thick and fast. We had an inkling that this fiasco would run and run. It followed perhaps the best example of investigative journalism seen in this country from reporters at the Telegraph.

The TAG were still fighting tooth and nail for their community school. At a council organised consultation meeting at the Brittania Stadium both communities universally rejected the proposed merger of the two schools and called for an Academy to be built on the Blurton site and a refurbishment of THS. It seemed a plan was coming together…

Details of our local Mps’ expenses were revealed at to be fair they did not show anything too untoward. Collectively Rob Flello, Mark Fisher and Joan Walley claimed  more than £450k in the main for travel, second homes and the running of offices. Out of the three Stoke South MP Rob Flello claimed the largest amount. He ranked as the 75th highest claimant out of the 645 MPs’ with a total of £162,116. Flello claimed £150,405 for running a second home and a constituency office.

Stoke North MP Joan Walley claimed a total of £146,719 in expenses. This amount included £134,210 on allowances and £12,509 in travel expenses. This put her in 325th place out of 645 Mps.

Stoke Central Mp Mark Fisher claimed a total of £147,664 which included £139,360 in allowances and £8,304 in travel expenses. This put Fisher in 309th out of the total of 645 Mps.

That’s the first quarter of the ‘Year in Review’ stay tuned for the next instalment coming very soon…….

Another example of officer incompetence!

Hot on the heels on the failure to implement a rise in car parking charges, which would have netted our local Authority a substantial sum of money, we have another fine example of officer incompetence.

Today’s fine Iain Robinson article in the Sentinel highlights another member decision that has not been implemented.

Result? Another failure to boost the council coffers!

I refer of course to the proposed installation of bus lane camera’s that should have been covering many of the city’s bus only lanes.

The camera’s needed to have the Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology, costing £140,000, following a successful trial period, using standard CCTV.

Now, this was originally agreed back in 2003 and this failure has cost the city in the region of £300,000.

It has to be a total priority for the incoming chief exec John Van de Laarschot to ensure that all decisions that are passed by elected members are implemented in the correct time frames.

This latest cock up is another slap in the face to us, the council tax paying public of the city.

We are constantly told that our council must save in the region of £45 million of the next three years and that there can be no guarantee that front line services will not be affected.

And yet here we have yet another blatant example of the sort of incompetence that angers the public to the core.

I would place a hefty bet that the officer that is responsible is no longer working for this authority. But assurances must be given via our city’s leading politician that cock ups like this are a thing of the past.

Ross Irving must take a political stance over issues like this article by Robbo raises. It is not acceptable for Ross to keep jumping to the defence of officers who fail in their duties just because it isn’t the done thing to criticise in public.

Well let me remind you Ross, It is the PUBLIC that bare the brunt of such incompetence and it is our pockets that are stretched to cover the shortfalls that short comings of certain officers create.

 

 

More Local Food Is Used In UHNS.

Dozens of local companies have been asked to supply around 65% of food products served at the UHNS.
Food preparation giant Sodexo had, since the summer of 2008 prepared and chilled meals in Wales, then driving them 140 miles for them to be re-heated on local hospital wards. Now, work as been done to extend kitchens as been done, more food will now be prepared within the hospital.
Around 4.000 meals are served at local hospitals each day and Sodexo had come under fire about the quality of some of the food and the environmental damage done on the long daily truck trips.
Andrea Green told the local press that Sodexo had been told of complaints at weakly meeting and that it had in-fact been the intention from the start to enlarge the local kitchen to cook more food locally.
With this move around more meals would be locally sourced from suppliers within 30 miles of the hospital.
She added “Since freshly-cooked food has been going onto the wards, the number of complaints has fallen, and by buying locally we are also creating or preserving jobs in the area.”
Most of the main hot meals will still be cooked in Wales and then warmed at Hartshill, but now foods like fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, butter, cheese and sandwiches will be supplied at a local level.
The move comes after health unions became involved in the problem and the local MP’s also called for changes.

In another development Sodexo have also committed the company to use Steelite to supply the crockery in all its contracts in the UK

Free University Course: Taking Part – Course for People interested in standing for council

Working together to make a difference

Do you want to take part in your community and work with other people to make a difference?

Do you think there are things that need to change for the better?
Are you keen to make a difference?

Taking Part is a course that can help you do this.

It will be held at a centre in the community and at Staffordshire University.
Taking Part will support you to:

· understand ways to work with other people to create positive change in your community or neighbourhood,
· think about your values,
· look at the strengths and problems of community.

On the course we will:

· talk together about communities and community issues,
· learn from each other,
· practice skills for community work.

Taking Part will run from 10am til 3pm
You need to come on all the days.

The dates are:
Tuesday 12th January
Monday 18th January
Monday 1st February
Monday 8th February
Monday 1st March

You will think about your skills and your learning.
At the end of the course:

· you will be able to plan a community project on a local issue.
· You will make a short presentation on a project of your choice.

You could get a University qualification if you do the course.
You do not need any qualifications to apply to do Taking Part.
We will support you with your learning.

Taking Part is FREE.
The course will be run by John Pierson and Janet Gittins from Staffordshire University.

How many people will be on the course?
There are places for 25 people on the course.

For more information contact:

Penny Vincent 01782 294540 or e-mail p.e.vincent@staffs.ac.uk

Cllr Derek Hall – Funeral Details.

We have been in contact with Chris Hall and he has given us the new arrangements for the funeral of his late father Councillor Derek Hall.

The new arrangements are:

Wednesday 6th Jan 2010, 13:45
St Bartholomews Church, Blurton
followed by cremation at Carmountside.

Chris has asked for family flowers only, but if anyone feels they would like to make a donation the family would be happy to accept donations for the Donna Louise Treetops Foundation.

Councillor Hall passed away on Sunday 13th December following a long illness.

He had served the Blurton Ward since 1999. He was fully committed to his duties and was very well respected and liked by all his fellow councillors from across the council chamber.

Wol Plays Virtual Santa!

Well the big day has come and gone for another year.

I hope you all did well out of Santa’s sack. As I sit here on Boxing Day morning nursing a delicate disposition [why does that final single malt always seem like a good idea at the time?] I find myself contemplating what it must be like to be able to give any gift you want to anyone you choose.

So, with that in mind, I have decided to play the role of a virtual Santa. In this article I am going to bestow the gifts that I think will help certain local key figures as we move to the new year.

So, here goes:

Ross Irving – To Ross I would give the gift of ‘courage’.

The courage of his convictions. To help him to overcome the public perception that this is an officer led authority. I like Ross, he’s a nice guy, but he constantly jumps to the defence of the indefensible. Anyone who questions or scrutinises is labelled a trouble maker. Ross needs to stand up to those officers who’s actions lead to public unrest. Ross needs to include the whole council chamber instead of just relying on the chosen few on the cabinet. Often, the cabinets role seems to be to endorse the officers suggestions. 2010 may turn out to be a difficult year for our council leader, unless he is seen to lead from the front instead of always taking the part of the rear of the pantomime horse.

Mike Barnes – To Mike, the wonderful gift of hindsight.

There he was at the top of his game, with a few problems in his group admittedly. And then fast forward to that fateful morning he decided to lift the phone in a genuine attempt to illicit information to quell spreading [malicious] rumours. In a split second the ‘reportergate’ scandal was born. This fiasco created an uncomfortable period in Mike’s life which led to his resignation from the Labour Party. A party he had served faithfully for many years. A bitter feud ensued, resulting in Barney ploughing a lonely furrow in the council chamber. Has it broken the man? Not a bit of it, he has bounced back, still fighting for just causes and relishing in the fact that he can operate without the shackles of the party machinery. He writes the occasional article and he is setting up a site to help those of any political persuasion who wish to serve as councillors and enter the public arena.

Ward, Mitchell, Follows & Capey – The helpful gift of remembrance.

The four City Independent Group members who have accepted the office of ‘cabinet member’ would do well to remember that it was they who were the most vociferous when the old EMB was in existence. Terry Follows used to berate the Elected Mayor and his band of merry ‘nodding donkey’s’ a term often used by Mr Follows. What a shame his own head is nodding so often that it is in mortal danger of falling off! Ian Mitchell an man who was so opposed to the closure of Heathfield Special school that when he joined the cabinet he ordered it’s retention and saved the day! – Oops I was dreaming, he promptly signed off it’s closure and now acts as the council spokesperson for all the unpopular proposals. Mitchell, the Springfield Academy will all fall under his axe. Now that my friends is some turnaround in a character. Wardy was probably the most outspoken councillor in the chamber before he signed the CIG up for this particular coalition. Now he is as meek as a lamb, being led by Ross who is in turn led by officers. No wonder there is deep unrest in the CIG and rumours of a leadership challenge. All may not be lost though – Wardy seems to be regaining some of his fight. The ‘secret’ [leaked] email voicing concerns over the Press & Communications Dept shows that he just might be willing to stand up against the establishment and oh how the City would benefit by the return of the true Silver Fox. It was the actions of the ‘old’ Follows, Ward & Mitchell that earned the CIG the reputation that they had. A reputation that is waning daily…

Gary Elsby ““ The gift of legal aid.

To help with the costs of the inevitable legal challenge that is certain to follow the decision to reject Gary as a candidate for the upcoming local election in 2010. Gary feels that the party have humiliated him and have constantly refused to explain their actions. Someone in the party at a regional or national level has adopted a selection criteria that exposes the inconsistencies within this party. Gary has been refused his chance of representing in the council chamber even though the same party have decided that he is fit to represent the City in the Houses of Parliament. I have been given information from outside the City that all those who wish to serve are graded. A for the best and so on. I have asked questions locally and been told that the Stoke Central rejectees have been graded ‘D’ which means hostile. In Gary’s case, is this defamation, libel, scandalous, a conspiracy? The truth will out, probably forced through legal channels, eventually?

Alby Walker ““ The gift of relief.

Alby has has a very difficult year. He was rejected by his fellow councillors in the Council Leadership elections in June. He has to put up with the lack of input from his fellow BNP councillors in the chamber. He has to sit there whilst Steve Batkin let’s loose on one of his rants. He has the worry of his wife’s serious illness. It has become all too much and Alby has chosen to step down as leader and will not seek re-election in 2010. Now that he has shed some of the burden I sincerely hope he has some relief and is able to juggle the needs of his business with the needs of his family.

Michael Coleman ““ The gift of openness.

I truly hope that under Mike’s leadership the BNP find the desire to engage with the media, the press and the public. Let’s hope that Mike will be more open about his party’s policies and his party’s vision of life under a BNP led council.

Kieran Clarke ““ The gift of enlightenment.

Now I have been writing for this site for over a year and I have yet to see a single policy emanate from within the local Libdem group. Of course this may all change when David Jack takes over as party chair in January. But given the fact that there is no love lost between Clarke and Jack, I can see stormy seas ahead for the good ship ‘Libdem’.

PKB & Mick Salih ““ The gift of stamina.

These two councillors, despite the rather unfair label of ‘troublemakers’, are probably the two most hard working councillors in the chamber. They have constantly scrutinised every decision of the cabinet and are committed to going through the proposed budget line by line. We should wish them luck and a whole lot of stamina to maintain the level of work they do on our behalf.

Mohammed Pervez ““ The gift of unity.

With all the trials and tribulations of the past year the Labour Group leader will hope for a period of calm. The reportergate saga, the defections and chamber criss crossing has all taken it’s toll on the Labour Party. But I do see green shoots of hope on the Labour benches of the council chamber. They have a shadow cabinet in operation and they will also produce an alternative budget. More than this though, is the need to distance themselves from the regional office/Stoke Central Shenanigans.

Roger Ibbs ““ The gift of peace.

There is no doubt that Ibbs has had an extremely difficult year. A year that has unfairly stained his reputation. A police investigation and an exile form his full council duties. The reality that the council hierarchy see their councillors as little more than commodities. The sun began to shine again in November when Ibbs was completely exonerated from any wrong doing, not a lack of evidence as some want to suggest. I hope that Roger has some peace of mind at long last and that Christmas brings him the knowledge that the truth is finally out there and he can wallow in a warming glass of malt whisky, ready to return to the chamber early in the new year and to use his considerable skill to right the wrongs that have been directed his way.

Dan Barton and Senior Press Officer ““ The gift of direction.

And a map so that they may find their way to scrutiny meetings………

So, you get the idea, but I’m sure you will have a few ideas of your own. Let’s all play ‘Virtual Santa’, have fun………