Stoke-on-Trent City Council Redundancy Process In Turmoil

Stoke-on-Trent City Council appear to be in a state of utter disarray around the officer & staff redundancies.

In the supposed culture of openness and transparency that seems to be mentioned at every available opportunity something seems to be lacking.
According to page 31 of the reports pack for the Improving Communities O&S Committee that sat on 25 January, everyone is fully aware and supportive of the redundancies.

Trade Union representatives are broadly aware of this approach and supportive as it is designed to ensure all staff in NM and Housing Services are fairly considered for a reduced number of job opportunities.

In fact the union representatives are so aware of the approach that they felt the need to issue the following statement to the effected staff by E-mail
I have not seen the new proposals nor have I been briefed on the details. It is proposed that I will see the proposals on a Tuesday afternoon, the date is yet to be decided and the staff will see them on Wednesday.

So if everything is so open and transparent why is the union saying they have never seen the proposals?

Sources within the council have told Pits n Pots that since the redundancy process started they have heard nothing or seen very little in official documents.

The first round of consultations was for tiers down to 3 & 4. Whilst there was overall numbers in the documentation that came out on 1st November, the documentation for this showed the structure and which roles had been deleted within the HENS directorate, including those of staff who have still not been officially informed of their redundancy.

Whilst there was overall numbers in the documentation that came out on 1st November, there were no pooling or placements lists. When these did arrive they were full or errors and/or ommissions.

We were supposed to be having meetings last week but these were cancelled, we had been told that the meeting would be this week but there is a rumour going around that it will be next week at the earliest

Other sources have told Pits n Pots that they don’t believe the documents and staffing numbers were even finalised until well into the consultation period which is why the unions have been stating they didn’t deem the consultation period to have started until the lists were available.

Back in September Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced the shake up and reduction of directorates providing an implementation timetable

1 September – Proposals issued to affected staff and (Union/s) for consultation
15 September – Deadline job skills and competency templates to be received for Director and Assistant Director posts to be placed.
30 September – Formal consultation ends. Deadline for receiving jobs skills and competency templates back for Assistant Director posts
1 October – Subject to results of consultation, commence implementing proposals including placing staff formally at risk
31 December – Redundancies effective
4 January 2010 – New structure in place and operational

We are now at the end of January and the new structure is not in place nor is it operational. According to our sources it will be another 3 or 4 weeks at least before the issues causing the delay are resolved.

We are reliably informed that the delay is being caused by changes that were made to senior managers contracts during the time of the interim Chief Executive. These changes include clauses which allow for payments of around £20,000 per person for taking on extra responsibilities within the council. We are led to believe that these changes were not put in front of the elected members and have only come to light as part of the restructuring process.

You can view the discussion about this matter in the last full council meeting here.

I think there are some things we need to be absolutely clear about, last year I as a leader made a statement that I would not accept pay rises to senior managers on tier 1 and tier 2, which is the discussion that’s in this report given the economic circumstances that this council faces.

HR Committee have discussed this, jobs have been re-evaluated because previously there was no job evaluation, it was basically erm unevaluated jobs randomly applied and a wholly unfair system.

For the first time we have been able to evaluate all the jobs and despite that the HR committee did not accept any pay rises for any of those senior officers”¦..

There has been a lot said about looking at the past and all the negatives within the council and how it should stop and how the city should look forward to the future. Unfortunately until each and very closet is opened up and every skeleton is out in public view it is impossible for the city to look forward, each time we look forward and feel that we are moving on something else from the murky past of Stoke-on-Trent City Council appears and sweeps the legs from under us.

Public Question at full council 27/1/11

I asked a public question at full council. The procedure for this can be found in the links below. In accordance with this my question of 150 words maximum is asked and answered ahead of the council meeting. I am not allowed to ask the original question in public at the council meeting but I am allowed to ask a supplementary question of 50 words maximum. I checked this procedure with the officer before the meeting started and he confirmed it.

Then I was thrown into disarray – Denver Tolley said “you have 3 minutes”. I said “no I don’t, I’ve got 50 words”. I could have filled 3 minutes no problem. Anyway I stuck to my 50 words. There were some public questions after mine and I think the original and supplementary questions were asked, certainly more than 50 words seemed to be used. Isn’t it a shame the council can’t even follow their own procedures?

If they don’t like the procedure they should change it. Personally I think the original question and answer would be better read out, then the supplementary, it would help observers understand the issues. If they want us to have 3 minutes or more than 50 words they should alter the procedure and inform us and apply it consistently.

The question I had asked, the response, my supplementary question and my further thoughts on this follow…

Question:

Parents of young people who attend the CMPAS Evening Ensembles at the Bridge Centre were informed by a letter, dated 1st November 2010, that “due to financial cutbacks across the whole city council” coach transport would stop at the end of term, after 10th December.

Why are parents not being given the opportunity to pay for the coach service in order to allow it to continue and why is the council stopping this service before the end of their so-called “Ëœconsultation’ on the cuts?

(The response that parents can not afford to pay is not good enough. Those who are fortunate enough to live on a good bus route or have their own transport and can get away from work in time to transport their children will still have to pay bus or petrol costs anyway. So why not pay for a dedicated music service coach?)

Response:

The decision to stop free of charge coach transport to and from the City Music and Performing Arts Service (CMPAS) Evening Ensemble was based on the significant pressures on the CMPAS budget within the current financial year 2010/11.

We needed to take immediate action to reduce in year costs to prevent placing pressure on the budget for the next financial year 2011/12 and beyond. The overall budget of CMPAS is heavily reliant on government grant which is due to decrease in April 2011. Any additional pressure from an overspend within the current financial year would impact on our ability to sustain the current free of charge instrumental tuition at the CMPAS Evening Ensemble sessions in future years.

This decision was made against the background of cuts across the wider City Council budget for the next financial year but was actually based on financial needs within the current financial year and therefore was not part of the Council’s current budget consultation process.

We did give consideration to alternative funding methods, including charging parents, but the service budget is not sufficiently robust to bear the potential financial liability of this (i.e. we would need to take out a contract for future transport and then look to cover the cost form parental contributions, incurring a degree of risk which is difficult to predict, for example if there were not enough children using this transport to cover the full cost.). In addition, this method of transport requires supervision to ensure children’s safety thus adding a further cost which we can unfortunately no longer afford.

In summary, we are sorry that we can no longer provide free transport to the CMPAS Evening Ensemble but hope that you will understand the rationale for the inevitability of this decision.

Supplementary Question:

We were informed in November of the cut in December, with no consultation. You say, as the cut is now made, it needs no consultation. Doesn’t this disrespect the families involved, demonstrate council incompetence, deceive everyone and prove the budget consultation to be, in fact no consultation.

Mohammed Pervez’s answer was pathetic. He didn’t think it was disrespectful to families, there would be a funding cut in April and they couldn’t afford to continue the free transport.

The thing that riles me the most is the emphasis in his first answer and in this one on having to make these cuts and that they have had to stop the free transport. The fact is they have not only stopped the “Ëœfree’ part of the transport, they have taken away the transport altogether. It’s not that the transport is no longer free, there is no transport at all! In my original question I never asked for anything for free. The question I asked was why couldn’t we parents pay in order to keep the bus service going?

Instead what we have is parents desperate to get away from work promptly then clogging up the roads at rush hour struggling to get our children to the Bridge Centre, that’s mad to me. I would have asked a question about the insanity of this if I had had more words. I was even more annoyed later in the meeting to find that people were being allowed to pay to keep shopmobility going and council was supporting this process. I’m not annoyed this is happening, it is good, I am annoyed that same respect is not being given to families that use CMPAS. Peter Kent-Baguley and Hazel Lyth talked about council committing help for others to take over services being cut, but that hasn’t happened with the CMPAS bus. Such ridiculously short notice was given of the cut that it didn’t even give parents much of a chance to put alternatives in place themselves seeing as the council seem too incompetent to do so. Somehow Mohammed Pervez doesn’t think it is disrespectful to cut our service with a month’s notice and no consultation, well I think it is disrespectful!

On the money side we had been told in the past that part of the money we pay for musical instrument tuition goes towards the “Ëœfree’ bus service. But are our tuition fees reduced now the bus service has stopped? Like hell! But I’ll let that one go, the money doesn’t bother me so much as the dishonesty.

The excuse they give for not allowing us to pay is pathetic. They can’t bear the financial liability for goodness sake. If they can’t organise charges for a bus for a couple of hundred known children who need it, how on Earth can we trust them with millions of pounds of tax payers money?

There were other supplementary questions I could have chosen on these issues but with a 50 word limit I just picked the lack of consultation. No consultation before the cut and apparently using the rapidity of the cut as an excuse to not consult, it’s a disgrace and is an example that shows what a meaningless sham the budget consultation really is.

Since November when the December cut was announced I have been trying to talk to the council about more sensible solutions but it seems they are inflexible about the bus service. I would still like a sensible solution but as there seems little willingness for it I thought it was about time to raise this more publicly. They should not be allowed to get away with a cut like this with no prior discussion.

The music and performing arts service was a rare and shining example of what our council did really well, now it is being sent straight down the tubes, what an awful way to go.

The problem with Meir.

Meir, a large area of at the southern boundaries of the City of Stoke on Trent, scared in the mid 1990s by the A50 being forced upon the area, and a very bad reputation. One mention of the area in the local paper will bring a torrent of negative comments from all areas about the area and its people, with anyone suggesting they are misguided given short shrift and at times vile insults and personal abuse.

According to these remarks made week after week, Meir is a place that no one in there right minds will walk the streets after dusk, that it is full of drunks, drug dealers, howling mad sex driven perverts, robbers, killers, muggers, knife wielding crazy people, gun runners, car- jackers, all manner of the scum of the earth. The kids on the square will take your legs away from under you in seconds whist there father, if they have the good fortune to know there father, will punch you in the face and have your wallet, mobile phone and house keys off you in no time at all. They will then force you to tell them your home address, go there and proceed to empty it of all your worthy goods. Yes Meir is bad news, Meir Square is singled out as the worst part, the hub of all that’s wicked and bad within the city of Stoke on Trent but the wider area is very bad news indeed.

So, before we go any further with this, let me explain my background, and where I come from. I was born and raised on anther of the city council estates, Blurton, before moving when my father brought his own house on Meir Hay in 1985. I only lived there a year before I had got the cash together to get my own home, witch I did in the September of 1986 in Normacot. There I stayed untill the December of 2004 when, with a nice bit of savings myself and Mrs. Lloyd had put aside, we brought a nice two bedroom home with a lovely big garden on the Hillside Estate in Meir. The wife tells me its more Lightwood, but the post code says its in Meir, so its Meir to me, and as most of you know by know, I’m ruddy well proud to say I live in ‘The Meir’.

How we brought the house was strange, we had closed the deal on the Normacot house, and needed then to find a home. Both of us loving the south of city, we had both been born and lived hear all our lives. The wife has many family members around the area, myself, not so now but with a good network of friends and the fact that I also worked in the area was up most in our minds. We did not want to move out of the area at all.

So, after a week of looking at homes, non of them we looked seemed right for us to move and live in for what seemed like the remainder of our lives. Mrs. Lloyd had at first discounted the area of Meir, believing the stories that went round that it was indeed a dreadful dump full of the lowest of the low. I on the other hand loved Meir, had many good mates in the area, understood the area had good bus routes, witch was important as I have never felt the need to learn to drive a car, and didn’t want to start now, getting into my 40′s, I did not want the hassle of that.

After a frustrating and wasted Saturday morning that had followed a week of looking at homes that were to small or to large or not having that bigger garden or overlooking the local scrap yards, being in a place that I would have a hell of a hick to get on a bus and the normal problem of the house being in such a state that it defied the laws of both gravity and the local planning department by staying upright. We had ran out of all leads, we had not seem a home we liked and could say we could do anything with and be happy there, and we had look at 25 to 30.

So, after a swift rethink by the wife, and a few home truths from me over Bacon Oatcakes and hot Coffee, we returned to the local Great White Sharks”¦”¦. Sorry, Estate Agents, we got a few appointments to have a look that day at 3 homes in Meir. The home we are in now is the second one we looked at, the first had fell into defying the laws of gravity class, the third one we didn’t bother with. We walked in to this one, knew it was home for us, whipped out the mobile and did the deal in the empty living room of the home we wanted to get and it was in Meir, no matter what anyone said.

Now you may say, what are you going on about, you soft headed git, your not on the front line then. Your sitting pretty in that nice little home of yours on the outskirts in a nice tree lined road that is well kept and a bus to most others part of the city trundles thought every 20 minutes. I’ll tell you what I’m going on about, I spend time around the grater area of Meir, in Meir Squire, on Western Road, Sanden Road, the road I live in joins onto Waterhead Road, I have many good mates there, and you know what, all that tripe you get on the comments board of the Sentinel from the likes of the well renowned local emmmmmmmm, person Garry Elsby, the Troll- M. Davies of Blyth Bridge for them that don”Ëœt know, that dreadful disgusting Carr woman from the same place, mind you she is just hell bent on dragging any area down that is not Blyth Bridge. There are others, but frankly, there petty minded views don’t deserve to be mentioned hear.

Yes, we have problems in Meir, but are they worse then they are on any other large housing estate, be it council, privet or a mix of both, no. Look in the local paper, take note of the reports, what goes on in Meir goes on just as much in other areas. Blurton, Bentalee, Addley Green, Chesterton, the list goes on and on and is endless. Reason being, like it or not it goes on everywhere. So why is it that Meir gets so much of a kicking, simple, for to long people have let it go on to Meir, not hit back, not said, “So, what’s your problem fool, it goes on everywhere.”

Now I not naming names hear, but there is at least one local member of the council that, to me, and only me, so I speak only for my hear, and not Pits N Pots at large, although is paid to represent the people of Meir and Weston spends most of the time doing two other things. They spend to much time pushing the twisted thoughts of there party, and to much time not representing the area, witch they say they are, but instead only highlights the problems of the area in a very public way. This effects the area in a very bad way, instead of sorting the problem, the problem tends to stay, people pick up on it, and use it against the area. This, of course is not the job of a council member, witch is to stand up for the area, sort out its problems, support its businesses and represent its people in the council chambers. I don’t see this member doing this very much.

Lets look at two things, one good about this council member and one not so good, and we will start with the good, and it’s the great Meir stinky meet trucks. This council members efforts have brought the problem to a head and to a wider public, and at the moment, the problems not that bad. I saying that, lets face it, it was a real problem, and had been a case of ill will around the area for a number of years. In short, and I’m sorry to say this, it was a nicely rolling band wagon and a bit of a no brainier.

Now the not so good, and I’ll now turn to the take aways in the area. This is a subject that this council member is very vocal about, as in they don’t like the amount there is. Now, I have never said much on the subject of take aways, I’m not a big fan of the old Kebab and Chips, Hamburger or Curry thing. I’m up for the nice fried rice, chow main and crispy duck every now and again and I’m always up for Fish and Chips, but anything more, no. I for one like to do it myself.

So are there anymore take aways in the area of Meir then are other built area driven by people living in that area, there might well by, but they all seem to stay open, so they must be making money. Another point is that if a take away is in a building, its goes without saying that that building will be used, and it will be maintained. If these take aways were not there, building would be empty. I think that Meir is not effected at all with the amount of take aways it has. The main problem with take aways is litter, and as I walk in Meir, I don’t find the litter a problem at all. The streets are well clear of it.

If you go down the road to Longton South area of Normacot and Dresden, you have just as many take aways. Do you see the council members in that area making remarks about them, no, it seem like they understand that they are important for the reasons I state.

Going off subject a bit, can I say hear and now that the city now as its fair share of take aways and that the city centre or the city in general need no more. The ones we have now must be left to get on with there trade, if that trade is not impacting on an area, most of the time it will not.

So In short, Meir as not got any other problems that other areas have, I live hear, I’m proud to say I live hear and I’ll fight for Meir and all who live hear all I can. I’m sick to death of hearing that the place I call home is a dump and the people who I live around and talk to day to day are not good people because they are.

And I’ll finish this in saying again, these are my thoughts and my feeling on the subject, it is in no way the thoughts that other hear hold, its just me. I’m saying it because I can. Please pass comment if you like, good or bad, I have very thick skin.

SOT Full council 27/1/11 – webcasts and rent rises

Full council meetings are now webcast so you can see for yourself much of what went on in the link at the bottom of this article. A link to a list of councillors is also given.

For those unfamiliar with the Stoke-on-Trent council chamber, in viewing the webcast, the Lord Mayor’s bench is at the top of the screen furthest away, the Labour benches are on the left of the screen, Community voice, Non-aligned, Non-aligned (Christian Independent), Libertarian Party and Liberal Democrats are in the centre, then progressing right from there are the Conservative and Independent Alliance, then the City Independents, then on the far right the British National Party. A snag with the webcast is you can not believe the councillor names because they do not always match the councillor who is speaking. Hopefully this will be improved in future.

One item that caused some discussion was the setting of council rents (item 11), a 7% increase was proposed by Brian Ward and seconded by Kieran Clarke. Mike Coleman said he would not support this as it is too much for people to pay. Peter Kent-Baguley criticised government and said he would not support this either. Mick Salih also objected. Joy Garner, herself a council tenant did support the rise to allow money for maintenance of houses. Tom Reynolds also supported the rise. Clive Brian blamed Labour for the rise but said he doesn’t like Labour, Conservative, Libdem bashing. John Davis does not like government forcing things like this on local authorities as it is undemocratic, he is totally against it and wants to defy the government. Mike Barnes objected to the rise and wants to show the electorate there are choices and differences between different political parties. Mohammed Pervez said it was important for rents to rise now otherwise they would have to catch up too much later. Brian Ward in summing up quoted the rent rise as about £1 per week. Mick Salih called out that this was wrong. A 7% rise amounting to £1 per week would mean a rent of ~£15 per week, which can not be right.

Unfortunately the webcast does not show the vote. They did not use the electronic voting system, the vote was by show of hands and the 7% rent rise was approved by a large majority of Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and almost all independent councillors. From where I was sitting behind the City Independents I could see that all of the BNP voted against this and although they were a bit obscured from me by the conservatives I think all Community Voice voted against it. There were a few others who voted against including City Independent John Davis and Non-aligned Roy Naylor.

Nicky Davis

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Publish Spending Data Over £500

Just scraping through inside the 31 January deadline imposed by Eric Pickles, Stoke-on-Trent City Council have published spending data over £500 on-line.

The data for December is available in .csv format and .pdf.

We have not had time to delve too deeply in to the data yet, but have noted that Kier Stoke have been paid £2,962,255.49 mainly billed as Private Contractors and Vanguard Consulting £68,696 billed as miscellaneous expenses & services

Before you get too excited about the data and what you can find out, be aware that you will have to enter a FOI request for each invoice you wish to find out more information about.

Three Public Petitions That Reach Out To The Stoke-on-Trent Public

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors were left in no doubt as to how the public feel about the potential loss of three very popular public services under threat of closure in the Budget proposals.

At a meeting of the Full Council today, two public petitions summed up the depth of public feeling about the proposed closure of Shelton Pool, the Sure Start Children’s Centres and the cessation of the Shopmobility service at the Potteries shopping Centre in the City Centre .

There were two petitioners fighting to save Shelton Pool from closure. 508 members of the public showed their support by signing the two petitions.

The first petition was presented by Julie Latham from Endon. She told the assembled councillors that she had not needed the pool until she suddenly woke up one morning to find she could not move. Her treatment was a long process and her consultant advised her to visit the pool at Shelton as a part of her rehabilitation. The staff put her at ease immediately and she joked that she came to the conclusion that the water in the pool must be filled with magical powers. She said that the pool users did not want a shiny new building of fancy fittings; they just wanted their pool mended. She said that all the alternatives that had been suggested were not really alternatives at all. Julie also conceded that the council had no legal obligation to keep the pool open but she reminded the council that perhaps they had a moral obligation. She also informed the chamber that the users were willing to pay more to use the pool and if any of them won the lottery they wouldn’t hesitate to save the facility. She finished by stating that the pool was essential for the body, mind and spirit for the users of Shelton Pool.

Jackie Barnes from Trent Vale added that it was because of Shelton Pool that she was able to stand in front of them instead of having to turn up in a wheelchair. She told the councillors that the pool had been neglected and should never be knocked down. She said that over recent years the city had lost Stoke, Hanley, Longton and Burslem pools and this must not be allowed to happen to Shelton. She said that users had serious fears that the special pool that had been so much help to so many people may be lost to the public. She reminded the City Council that they would be letting people down if they closed the pool and that they should be honoured to have such a marvellous facility.

594 people signed the petition to save the Shopmobility service based that the Potteries Shopping Centre in Hanley. The petition was presented by Liz Salmon of Newcastle-under-Lyme who reminded the City Council that Shopmobilty was a vital service that provided parking, powered and manual wheelchairs to those members of society who need them. She said the Shopmobility was funded in part by donations and part by the City council. She told councillors that the users of the service would be devastated by its loss. She reminded councillors that the users of the Shopmobility come to shop and if the service was lost there would be a loss in revenue to the city. She also said that users would pay an increase in charges for the service.

The most compelling petition was presented by Millissa Beydilli from the Save Our Children Centres.

5600 people have so far sigen the SOCC petition, the number was expected to exceed 600 by Friday morning.

Her address to full council was eloquent and delivered with passion, knowledge of the subject and commitment. Councillors from all side of the chamber were gushing with compliments. Labour councillors were supportive with Cllr Shotton, Cllr Bridges, Cllr Garner, Cllr Dillon, Cllr Reynolds, Cllr Bagh Ali, and Council Leader Pervez all heaping praise on the Save Our Children Centres Campaign.
Cabinet Member with responsibility Cllr Gatton assured the petitioner that she would consider all the options and all the points would be taken into consideration before a final decision was made.

Members on other benches showed their support too. Cllr Naylor was unstinting in his support for the campaign. Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley made a telling contribution when he said that it was great to hear the massive amount of support shown by the Labour benches but sadly the one thing that was lacking was the categorical commitment to stop these closures. He said that he intended to keep the February Budget meeting going as long as possible until every children centre’s future was guaranteed. He said that he felt impassioned over this issue and that the closure of these centres should never have been on the Budget Proposal Document. He said that he would never support these closures. Cllr Mick Salih confirmed that Community Voice would not support the closures at the Budget meeting. Cllr Coleman said that the BNP group councillors would also vote against the closures too.

Listen to the audio with the Save Our Children’s Centres representative Millissa Beydilli below.

Nicky Davis will have a more comprehensive report on this and other matters on this site soon.

City Centre Streets in Line For a Revamp

Councillors are being asked to approve plans to start work on a series of improvements to public spaces in the city centre.

A report to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet on 3 February recommends starting to draw up detailed designs for a phased city centre public realm program starting later in the year.

The works, which could include extra seating, improved public spaces, and new paving, are designed to link major developments in the city centre such as the Central Business District, bus station and East West Shopping Centre creating innovative public space at the heart of the city centre.

The total budget available for the works is still yet to be agreed as part of the current Budget proposals. However, it is expected to enable the first phase of work to start in autumn with further phases developed around the delivery of key projects in the city centre.

“The public realm improvements are an important part of the regeneration of Stoke-on-Trent. They are designed to complement and create innovate spaces in between city developments such as the new bus station, Central Business District and East West redevelopment. Cabinet is being asked to look at proposals to start work on creating detailed designs for the project as well as ways of phasing the works to provide maximum effect with the budget available.”

Areas that have been identified for investment include Tontine Street, Percy Street, Fountain Square, Upper Market Square, Crown Bank, Market Lane and Albion Square.

It is proposed the detailed designs will be drafted by the city council’s design team with each phase being reviewed annually to make sure that investment is being targeted at priority areas for current development.

A decision on the report is due at the council’s cabinet meeting on Thursday 3 February.

City Farm Tender Suspended & Reports Hidden From Elected Members

After the Pits n Pots investigation in to the City Farm tender from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, we have been told that meetings have taken place between Sarah Hill & Jane Forshaw to discuss the debacle which culminated with the tender being suspended:

Broadcast message to all tenderers;

We are reviewing our approach to the procurement and for a temporary period this has been suspended. A further communication will be sent to you shortly.

Thank you for your interest in the City Farm and your patience while we review our approach.

Pits n Pots have also been given copies of 2 reports that should have been presented to the EMB and Elected members but for whatever reason never saw the light of day.

We have also been given a copy of a report by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, which was commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council at a reported cost of £10,000. we can find no evidence of this report ever being given to the Elected Members.

We have asked Stoke-on-Trent City Council for a statement on these reports but they have not yet responded.

Hanley Bus Station Short List Of Construction Companies Announced

Six companies have been chosen to proceed to the next stage of the selection process for the main contractor, which will start building the long awaited Hanley Bus Station in the summer once enabling works have been completed.

The short-listed companies are:

  • C Spencer Limited
  • Galliford Try
  • Kier Northern
  • Laing O’Rourke Construction
  • VINCI Construction UK Limited
  • Wates Construction Limited

The short-listed teams will now undergo the main tender for the works before a main contractor is selected.

Work on the landmark bus station, which forms the first phase of the £350 million East West Centre redevelopment, and the demolition of the Coachmakers Arms is due to start in March.

The East West Centre redevelopment project which will, according to publicity at least, transform the prominent city centre site of the existing East West Centre to create a new, 650,000 sq ft high quality regional shopping centre that will include a department store, a wide range of new shops, cafés, restaurants, vibrant public spaces, a multi-screen cinema, a hotel and improved parking.

We are delighted to announce such a strong shortlist of contractors, which includes a number of the biggest names in the industry. The project has created a lot of interest so narrowing the shortlist down to just six companies has not been easy.

We want to make sure we choose the right contractor for a scheme of this size and importance, and so we will spend the next few months carefully reviewing the tenders before making our final decision.

This is the next important step in the completion of the city’s new bus station. The facility is the first phase of the £350 million redevelopment of the East West Centre and will create a warm and secure space for those using the buses. It is pleasing to see that the tender has attracted interest from companies across the country and is testament to the scale and importance of the development.

The bus station forms the first phase of Realis Estates’ multi-million pound shopping and leisure facility. It will be built on the current John Street surface car park.

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.