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.

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About Tony Walley

I was Abbey Hulton born and bred, now live in Meir Hay. I'm married to Nita, we have 2 kids Tom 19 & Amy 17. I'm the Managing Director of a local aluminium stockist. I'm also a radio presenter and presented sport on radio for a number of years, more recently for Focal Radio. It was on Focal that I got the chance to present a programme of my favourite music genre which is Soul & Smooth Jazz. The programme was really popular and attracted overseas listeners online. Look out for our new venture www.6towns.co.uk - Community Radio for the good folk of the 6 Towns! I was the original creator of the blog Pits'n'Pots which gained some credibility when Mike Rawlins joined the site and has now blossomed into this site. I love sport particularly Golf & Tennis. I packed up playing football some years ago when I started picking up lot's of fines for bookings from late tackles! I play golf at Leek Golf Club and Tennis at Draycott Sports Centre.

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