Chief Exec Must Draw on His Experience to Generate Income for Stoke-on-Trent City Council

I thought long and hard before writing this article as I have always been a massive supporter of John van de Laarschot.

The recent settlement between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the former Director Of Housing Environment & Neighbourhood Services Jeanette McGarry has dented JVDL’s halo significantly.

It’s OK to say that the council has insurance that indemnifies them against claims of this nature, but you have to ask yourselves whether this should have been a claim at all?

Pits n Pots broke the story back in April 2010, the very next day, we received a press statement that on the first read we kind of knew it would come back and bite someone on the bum at a later stage and we guessed that somewhere along the line, it would cost the City Council a large sum of money.
This bit:

Without admission of liability, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and its insurers have paid Jeanette an undisclosed sum in settlement of her employment and libel claims. The Council wishes Jeanette well in her future career.

admits liability, if there is no liability on the Council’s part then why the hell pay it?

We pay our chief executive in the region of £195,000. I can remember the council officers and elected representatives defending this huge sum of money by saying that if we are to attract the best, we have to pay for the best.

At a time when a significant number of CEO’s across the country are taking a voluntary pay cut, highly paid public sector executives need to show that they are in touch with the reality of life in the cities in which they work.

Staffordshire Moorlands CEO has just taken a 7.5% cut in his salary; his basic salary is in the region of £45,000 less than his counterpart in Stoke-on-Trent. I think this action shows that those at the top are aware of the difficulties facing the citizens out there on the mean streets. Services and amenities are being lost, people are feeling the strain. This gesture, albeit token in nature, tells Joe Public that in a small part, he is feeling the pain too.

I have supported John on bringing Vanguard into the City Council to implement their “ËœLean Systems Thinking’ model which will reduce the layers of bureaucracy and increase efficiency. This simply had to be done, had it not been, the recent cuts would have been far harsher.

I don’t think that the 700 job losses are the last either. With £20million worth of cuts still to come in the next financial year, even more council employees will be for the push. I have said before on this site that I can see the council workforce 20% lighter than before JVDL started here in Stoke-on-Trent.

That said; JVDL needs to start delivering more than just cut, cut, cut for this city. We could well do with no more loose tongue mentality [or should that be loose keyboard syndrome?] that don’t result in another astronomical pay out to a disgruntled officer of the council.

I think I am more upset that the media release about the recent pay out didn’t contain anything that acknowledged any regret for the release of a statement that cost our council dear. Moreover, Mr van de Laarschot has not come out with any statement either apologising or expressing regret to our elected members. He had the perfect opportunity at the annual council meeting.

Our council leader or the leader of the opposition did not broach the subject either, now maybe that was because the Annual Council tends to be a ceremonial event as opposed to a full blown political debating opportunity. Time will tell as the next full council meeting is scheduled for early July and Dave Conway may choose to land a few telling jabs and a right hook during the exchanges.

The reason that I am calling for John van de Laarschot to draw on his considerable experience to help the City generate income is , as the ex head of Coca Cola Europe, he will have the ideas and commercial experience to help the council maximise their revenue potential.

An example is the number of commercial council properties that are lying empty across the city. Can these be used by people who want to start up businesses but may have a problem finding the funding or getting the banks to lend? Leases can contain rent free periods and certain other inducements, but if we have someone who has commercial experience and can think out of the box, instead of chargeable rent maybe there could be a share of profit with the council instead.

That way empty units can be filled. Revenue could be earned. Business start ups can get the help and support they need and more importantly cash could be rung through the council till.

Real entrepreneurial skill is required to facilitate the kind of regeneration that is needed in a city like Stoke-on-Trent. Fill those empty units, help the 6 towns to regenerate and to become more vibrant, encourage money to stay within the local town centre economy.

The city council needs to encourage social enterprises and to transfer assets to worthwhile, credible ventures.

I believe that in a City that is lacking in skilled job opportunities, those at the top of the City Council including the CEO, the council leader and his cabinet have to meet the challenge to get people back into work head on.

Other cities have proven officer type, career public servants at the top of their authorities. We chose to employ someone with a different skill set, with more to offer and a real commercial brain to head up our authority.

That person needs to step up to the plate and deliver now.

Pervez and his cabinet think that they have a mandate to carry on cutting ““ they don’t!

They have a mandate to bring wealth creation, prosperity and opportunities to our city over the next few years.

Yes there may be a few difficult decisions to make along the way, but the city and more importantly the electorate, will judge them on their achievements.

I believe that cuts are not an achievement – bringing a brighter future, full of hope to our citizens, is.

Stoke BNP Member Claims His Party Is Finished

I recently asked a senior figure in Stoke BNP if he thought his party was finished for good in our city. He looked me straight in the eye and replied: “I think we are Tone yes”.

He went on to explain that his party had self destructed and imploded in the past two years and he laid the blame firmly and squarely at the doorstep of BNP Leader Nick Griffin.

The story did not get better for the far right party as this activist said that the recent election campaign received no party funding what so ever.

I was told that the BNP would never come back from this low point and that all the fight had gone out of the membership. The party insider revealed that they had really struggled to attract any candidate of quality.

It had cost some candidates in the region of £750 to fund and fight the campaign.

“We just could not compete with the Labour Party and they just smashed us!

“They were really organised this time especially in the centre of the city ““ colour leaflets and telephone campaigning, they knocked the doors en masse and they got their voters out on polling day.

“I don’t know where the BNP go from here, there is no enthusiasm, and we haven’t met since election night.

“Activists aren’t to blame that’s for sure, we have seen a drop in members, some activist have gone off to join other nationalist parties. It’s all down to Nick Griffin.”

This dejected BNP member told of his anger at the way Griffin his running the party.

It appears that if you question the BNP leadership you get an black mark against your name and before you know it you are out of the party.

Griffin is holding on the all the available funds and party activists are left high and dry and are having to fund party expenses themselves.

Many BNP members believe that Griffin his hanging onto the purse strings to fund his, and Andrew Brons’s next European Election campaign.

The Stoke BNP member believes that if Griffin is successful in getting re-elected to the European Parliament then, and only then will he relinquish the chairmanship of the party.

“It’s all down to money with Griffin Tone, He has his entourage to pay for and we believe he employs his wife and his daughter out of his European expenses.

“He is doing all right and we are struggling to fight a campaign against the might of the Labour Party machine.

“I just want to serve as I always have, but everything you do is futile without any party funding to help get leaflets delivered.

“I just wonder where all the money has gone, but it’s no good questioning anything either, only the chosen few know the true picture.

“In four years time we will have a general election to fight alongside the local elections. With people getting fed up and moving on you wonder if we will be able to fight either election.

“The morale is at rock bottom in the party. People are asking if there is any point meeting and if there is anything that we as a group can do anyway.

“This city has four years of Labour to contend with and I’m not sure if the BNP has enough to scrutinise from outside the chamber”.

BNP Leader Nick Griffin claimed nearly £300,000 for his first year as a MEP. This has led to accusations about him jumping aboard the gravy train that he and his party were so outspoken about.

He is yet to answer just how much of his income he has donated to the British National Party.

It has been a spectacular fall from grace both in this city and nationally for the BNP.

At the height of their popularity in 2008 they had 55 councillors nationwide and 9 in here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Now in 2011 they have just 12 councillors across the country and here in this city they have been wiped out of the chamber.

The far right party defended 12 council seats across the country but held on to just 2.

With things as bad as the senior Stoke BNP member paints it, you really do wonder if this is the end for the BNP.

Nationalist parties seem to have been rejected unilaterally by the electorate locally and across the country.

In 2010 the England First Party fielded candidates against the BNP in Stoke. In 2011 they had an agreement not to stand against each other. Out of 16 far right candidates fighting the City Council elections, none were successful.

Of 74,321 votes cast in the Stoke-on-Trent local elections, just 3,690 went to “Ëœnationalist’ candidates.

Politics is often like music and fashion trends, something is fashionable and popular only to fade away and then without warning it is back again. The same could be said about the politics of the far right.

Opponents of the far right, organisations like Searchlight, Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate and NorSCARF will not drop their guard.

They know better than most that just because the BNP, England First Party, EDL and the English Democrats have been forced into being dormant, it does not mean that they have gone away altogether.

The problem for far right parties and in particular the BNP, is when their own supporters believe that they are finished it is very difficult for their party leaders to convince them otherwise.

Pervez Elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council but only after a Breezy Challenge

Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez was elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council today [Thursday], but only after a challenge by Unaffiliated Councillor Paul Breeze.

In an unexpected move, Cllr Breeze decided to nominate himself as Council Leader and offered the Labour Group 8 cabinet places.

He also offered the City Independents one place and challenged the council chamber to take the opportunity of making newly elected Conservative councillor 19 year old Jack Brereton the youngest ever cabinet member.

In a passionate address Cllr Breeze reminded the Labour Group that whilst they have a large majority in the council chamber, they were not the choice of the vast majority of the citizens of the City.

He told Labour Leader Mohammed Pervez that it was unacceptable to keep claiming that the state of the city is down to the cuts handed out by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. He reminded the City Council meeting that the country had had 13 years of a Labour Government until May 2010 and the City of Stoke-on-Trent had had many years of Labour domination.

He predicted that, with the size of the Labour majority, his challenge would be futile but he said that someone had to offer an alternative view for the city.

His challenge was heavily defeated with just one vote for Cllr Breeze and two abstentions [Conservatives].

Cllr Pervez refused to respond to Cllr Breeze’s challenge and instead went on to inform the meeting that he was confident that Labour would be able to achieve all of their objectives having received a clear mandate from the public.

He announced his Labour cabinet and said that he was confident that his team would be able to deliver the services and amenities needed despite the savage Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government cuts.

Pervez thanked members of the previous council coalition partners including Brian Ward the former leader of the City Independents and Kieran Clarke the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

He paid a special tribute to the former Conservative Leader Ross Irving who had served as deputy council leader last year. He said that Ross Irving was a man of integrity who had served the city with distinction over the past 4 decades and was universally respected by all sides of the chamber.

Cllr Pervez warned the chamber that there were hard times ahead with the need to cut around £20million in the next financial year. He reaffirmed his commitment to listen and to engage with the public and to protect the services that were needed most.

Pervez paid tribute to the officers of the council and he informed the meeting that through the work they had carried they had increased efficiency and reduced directorates. A move which he maintains has saved £7.6miilion alone.

He warned the councillors that he would not stand for infighting from his own benches and that he had no time for negative attitudes and councillors from all sides of the chamber who talk the council down.

He said that he wanted to make Stoke-on-Trent the best place to live.

Listen to this exclusive audio interview with Cllr Paul Breeze below who could well prove to be the voice of the Stoke-on-Trent residents over the next four years.

Stokie Terry Follows Denver Into Lord Mayors Parlour

Stokie lad Cllr Terry Follows was today [Thursday] voted in as the City of Stoke-on-Trent’s next Lord Mayor.

Fenton born and bred, the son of a miner and a pottery worker, Terry was nominated by Labour Councillor Tom Reynolds and was seconded by his City Independent Group Leader Cllr Dave Conway.

In nominating Terry, Cllr Tom Reynolds told the chamber that he had tremendous respect for him and for the work he does in his ward.

He also reminded the chamber of the work he carried out in helping to save the secondary school in his ward, Trentham High, from closure.

Tom Reynolds said that he remembered the time just days after the sad passing of his wife Christine, Terry was back in the chamber fighting on behalf of the school and the TAG. A fight that would eventually be won.

Terry Follows signed the declaration of acceptance for the office of Lord Mayor in a packed council chamber and told the councillors and members of the public present that he had waited a long 15 years to receive the honour of being the City’s first citizen.

He promised to do his best to promote the city at all times and to show the same commitment in his time in office as he shows to the electorate of Hanford & Trentham.

The 64-year-old lifelong “ËœStokie’ has represented the city on three separate occasions, the first spell starting 24 years ago in 1987. Following a year long break between 1991 and 1992, Terry returned for his second spell of four years before leaving the council in 1996. He has served the city continuously since returning as councillor in 2004.

Terry has also served as a cabinet member for the past two years holding, until earlier this month, the portfolio for environment, waste management and neighborhood services.

His career saw him start work at the age of 16 as an apprentice plumber for Seddon. He then went on to run his own plumbing and central heating business from the ages of 26 to 60, when he retired.

He has a son and three grandchildren – an 18 year old girl, 16 year old boy, and a new nine month old baby boy who Terry is looking forward to spending the coming years with – and says he is overjoyed to represent the city and its residents.

Terry takes over the civic chain of office from former councillor Denver Tolley. He will be accompanied in his civic duties by Jacqueline Pearson, who will be the Lady Mayoress. The council also decided that Councillor Majid Khan would become Deputy Lord Mayor.

Listen to Terry’s first interview as the new Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent below.

My Experience Of The Annual Stoke-on-Trent City Council Meeting – May 26

Okay, so the title may sound like I’m back at school in September writing about what I did on my summer holidays, but here you have a few of my thoughts on my experience of the first meeting of the new Stoke-on-Trent City Council Chamber.

It may have been a bit of a “Ëœrubber stamping’ affair, but the Annual City Council Meeting was perhaps the first chance to really see the new council in action.

For my first visit to the Council Chambers I was impressed by the broadcast equipment found around the chambers providing (what I hope was) excellent online coverage of the meeting. I say hope, because as sod’s law would have it, the City Council website doesn’t appear to be online this evening so I haven’t been able to watch it back.

For those readers unaware of the business of the annual council meeting ““ it was to set the council’s affairs in order ready for the next year of government.

One of the first speeches was perhaps one of the most interesting ““ a Christian prayer by the outgoing Lord Mayors pastor ““ Paul Lockett. In this incredibly diverse city, I find it very interesting that such a traditional Christian custom is still continued today in the council chambers.

A CofE member myself, I suddenly found myself back in first school, quietly mumbling 90% of the Lord’s Prayer ““ it’s always those last few lines that get me!

Official proceedings soon kicked off with the emotional farewell to Denver Tolley, outgoing Lord Mayor and retiring councillor who joked that he would be spending his days skiing. Not in the sporting sense, but Spending the Kids’ Inheritance.

Mr Tolley shared memories, thanks and a couple of tears with the chamber and handed over to newly elected Lord Mayor Cllr Terry Follows and his deputy, Cllr Majid Khan to continue chairing the rest of the meeting.

Cllr Pervez was re-elected as Council Leader but wasn’t the only nomination. Non-alligned Cllr Paul Breeze offered his own name followed by an energetic speech which was granted extra time by the Lord Mayor. He launched an attack on Labour who, according to him, aren’t the popular majority with the public.

His speech was met by cheers from the public gallery but failed to convince the chamber as he only received one vote, followed by 3 abstentions and 37 votes for Pervez. 3 councillors were absent for the vote.

Cllr Pervez declined to respond directly to Cllr Breeze but gave a long post-election speech outlining his plans for the next four years in charge with his Labour majority ““ although he didn’t quite manage to find the same energy as Cllr Breeze.

The afternoon saw the approval of committee placements meaning that the political machine of Stoke-on-Trent City Council now has all of its cogs in place.
How long they stay in place is down to our city’s elected representatives.

Here’s to the next four years of Potteries Politics!

Cherie Booth QC Backs the Stoke-on-Trent S.O.C.C Campaign

Stoke-on-Trent’s nationally recognised Save Our Children Centre’s campaign have managed to enlist the support of Cherie Booth QC.

Ms Booth, the wife of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, has personally written to parents offering her support as the campaign to halt a 30% reduction in funding heads for a judicial review.

The Save Our Children’s Centres campaigners have also enlisted the services of the same solicitors that the Hampshire S.O.C.C are using to further their claim against budget reductions.

Sure Start children centres were described by Tony Blair as “Ëœone of New Labour’s greatest achievements’.

Originally opened in 1999, there are now approximately 3500 Sure Start Children Centres across the country. The key objectives of these centres are:

“¢ In centres in the 30% most disadvantaged areas: integrated early learning and childcare (early years provision) for a minimum of 10 hours a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year; and support for a childminder network
“¢ In centres in the 70% least disadvantaged areas, which do not elect to offer early years provision: drop-in activity sessions for children, such as stay and play sessions
“¢ Family Support, including support and advice on parenting, information about services available in the area and access to specialist, targeted services; and Parental Outreach
“¢ Child and Family Health Services, such as antenatal and postnatal support, information and guidance on breastfeeding, health and nutrition, smoking cessation support, and speech and language therapy and other specialist support
“¢ Links with Jobcentre Plus to encourage and support parents and carers who wish to consider training and employment
“¢ Quick and easy access to wider services

Authorities are proposing closing or reducing the budgets of the Children Centres as a measure of tackling the reduction in funding handed out to Council’s across the country following the governments Comprehensive Spending Review which was completed last autumn.

There are fears that up to 250 Sure Start Children’s Centres could close across the country in the next 12 months.

Mr Anthony Withers, a Stoke-on-Trent S.O.C.C campaigner and father of seven contacted Cherie Booth QC through a professional social networking site and was delighted to receive a very quick response from her offering her support.

“ We are so passionate for the future of our children and so disappointed that 30% of services are being taken away from families- we did not want it to come to this but we feel that we have to fight for our children”.

Please listen to the full audio interview with Mr Withers below:

S.O.C.C’s Alan Lear Hits out at the Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Alan Lear of the S.O.C.C campaign updates Pits n Pots readers with the latest news on the fight to stop the City Council decimating the Children’s Centres budget by 30% [£2.25million]

In a recent Pits n Pots interview Councillor Mohammed Pervez said that he would:

“Give that guarantee to be there for the people and anyone that wants to see me.”

“Because there was not much of a united opposition he would be outward looking as a consequence and I will be making sure that my cabinet members and labour councillors continue to engage and listen to the residents and we will take on board their views as far as possible.”

He also said:

“It’s important that they way we make decisions, we do it in collaboration with our residents, and making sure that we listen to the residents, so working in isolation from the residents is not something that I’m going to entertain. I want our residents to feel involved and it is going to be difficult and we do have to make difficult decisions, but we won’t do it alone. We will work collaboratively with residents.”

” I want the services provided by the Children’s Centres to be distributed in a fair way across the city so people, particularly the most vulnerable have access to those services and the Children’s Centres continue to provide a good level of service to the people most in need.”

With regard to his last statement I draw your attention to the following as what he says is incorrect.

Local authorities are required by the Act to make “Ëœsufficient provision’ of children’s centres to meet local need. They are therefore the lead commissioner working with their Children’s Trust partners. The Act makes clear that “Ëœlocal need’ refers to the need of parents, prospective parents and young children (under the age of five) in the local area. (Not across the city)

Determining what is sufficient provision is a decision for local authorities to take, and the Government expects this to be taken in full consultation with Primary Care Trusts and Jobcentre Plus, other Children’s Trust partners and local families and communities. Local authorities should ensure that universal access to children’s centres is achieved, with children’s centres configured to meet the needs of local families especially the most deprived. Local authorities should be able to demonstrate through their performance management arrangements and review processes that all children and families can be reached effectively.

In undertaking such consideration, local authorities should be guided by demographic factors and demonstrate an understanding of the different communities ““ both geographically and socio-economically ““ children’s centres will serve. Local authorities should also take into account views of local families and communities in deciding what is sufficient children’s centre provision.

Now you can make a judgement on his other statements!

We promised to give you the feedback on our monitoring
exercise in relation to councillor responses to our request to attend our recent meeting in Hanley on 18th May:


Sarah Hill ““ Cllr/Cabinet member ““ RELIED & ATTENDED
Andy Lilley ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED & ATTENDED
Duncan Walker ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED & ATTENDED
Paul Shotton ““ Cllr/Deputy Council Leader ““ REPLIED
Janine Bridges ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member ““ REPLIED
Adrian Knapper ““ Cllr/Cabinet member ““ REPLIED
Ruth Rosenau ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member ““ REPLIED
Karen Clarke ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Alan Dutton ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Matt Fry ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Martin Garner ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED NON ““ ATTENDANCE DUE TO ILLNESS
Sheila Pitt ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Andy Platt ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED (2 DAYS AFTER EVENT)
Tom Reynolds ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Alison Wedgwood ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED (PLANNING SURGERIES WITH TRISTRAM HUNT MP AT THE TREEHOUSE )

Peter Hayward ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Glenys Ward ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED

Jack Brereton ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED
Abi Brown ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED

Paul Breeze ““ Councillor ““ REPLIED

Shame on the following elected representatives ““ we ask does “Ëœevery child matter’ to them?


Mohammed Pervez ““ Cllr/Council Leader ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Debra Gratton ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member for C&YPS ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Mark Meredith ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Olwen Hamer ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Gwen Hassall ““ Cllr/Cabinet Member ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Bagh Ali ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Muhammad Aumir ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Kath Banks ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Terry Crowe ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Neil Day ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Joy Garner ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Shazad Hussain ““ Councillor ““ Did NOT RESPOND
Gurmeet Singh Kallar ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Majid Khan ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Shaun Pender ““ Councillor – DID NOT RESPOND
Alistair Watson ““ Councillor – DID NOT RESPOND
Amjid Wazir ““ Councillor – DID NOT RESPOND
Matt Wilcox ““ Councillor – DID NOT RESPOND

Randy Conteh ““ Councillor ““ DID NOT RESPOND REPORTED ILL
Dave Conway ““ Cllr/Leader CIG ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Terry Follows ““ Cllr/Lord Mayor Elect ““ DID NOT RESPOND
Ann James ““ Cllr/Dep CIG Leader

Cllr Debbie Wheeldon could not be contacted due to her council email address not working.

Cllr Lee Wanger was not contacted by S.O.C.C.

S.O.C.C are committed to holding the City Council to account regarding their plans for the City’s Children Centres and we will continue to seek a resolution through negotiation.

We appeal to the Leader of the City Council to meet with us in a bid to finding a suitable outcome for both the City Council and our city’s fantastic Children’s Centres.
We are committed to a “ËœConversation B4 Confrontation’ ethos.

John Street Car Park And Bus Station Development

On March 23, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez started work on the much talked about new bus station for Hanley.

Councillor Pervez started the work with the construction of a 2.4 meter high fence around the site and said

This is fantastic news for the city. We gave commitment to starting on the bus station by 28 March. We have managed this. This is a sign of our absolute commitment to making sure we deliver. The new bus station will become a lasting legacy for the city and will provide users with a quality, warm and safe facility.

If we rewind back to September 2010, the cabinet of the time, under the leadership of Councillor Pervez made a number of pledges that they were going to deliver by the end of March 2011 These pledges included

  • Delivery of 100 Extra Care housing units to support older people.
  • Building new homes in Coalville, Blurton and Fegg Hayes.
  • Working in partnership to provide 100 affordable homes.
  • Starting a new adult learning programme.
  • Starting work on the new REACH short stay school at Trent Vale.
  • Supporting 2,000 people with advice on training and employment.
  • Helping 500 people into permanent jobs through the city’s JET centres.
  • Introducing 11 more No Cold Calling zones
  • Completing the refurbishment of the Mitchell Memorial Theatre.
  • Starting work on the development of a new city centre bus station.

Amazingly just before the ‘Purdah‘ period for the 2011 local elections started, (during Purdah publicity, in any form, by public officials, of candidates and politicians is prohibited), Councillor Pervez was able to Start work on the development of a new city centre bus station and deliver one of his cabinets pledges from September.

After the work started, the car park remained open until 11 April when the fencing was complete and the gates were locked for the final time. If you were expecting work to be being carried out as a matter of urgency behind the fence, you will be sorely disappointed.

John Street Car Park

An empty John Street car park

John Street Car Park

No sign of any work being carried out

As you can see now almost 9 weeks on from the work starting and 6 weeks since the car park was closed, there is no work being carried out nor are there any signs of any work other than putting the fence up and removing the pay machines being carried out.

Can closing a car park, which it has been alleged generated over £9000 a week in parking revenue for the city, be classed as delivering the cabinet pledge to start work on the development of the new city centre bus station? Especially as the planning application for the new bus station is reserved with clauses which appear to mean that any construction above ground level is not to commence until certain conditions have been met.

It is possible that other pledges made by the cabinet have been delivered as promised, but this one looks like it was a last minute vanity project by Councillor Pervez to dupe people in to thinking that work was actually beginning on the bus station.

Pits n Pots have contacted Stoke-on-Trent City Council to ask them for a schedule of works currently being carried out, any completed works and any planned works, along with a statement from Councillor Pervez or Renew, so far they have not been able to supply this.

Updated 17:20 23 May Stoke-on-Trent City Council provided the following statement.

 

Since work began in March this year we have successfully secured the site, completed the site hoarding, commenced service disconnections, de-commisioning of ticket machines, tree removal and soft strip of shrubbery to the perimeter of the site. We have completed the tender for the enabling works package to stabilise the ground with the tenders now under review. This process has been slightly delayed due to the intensive bank holiday period which was unavoidable. We expect all reviews to be finished today (May 23) with a view to grouting works starting shortly; an eight to 10 week process. The tender for the principle contractor is also now issued with a closing date of June 24, 2011 and commencement on site following completion of the enabling works in early – mid August.  While a lot of the work has been in the background it is all vital to the project goes ahead as planned. We are working hard every day to get to make sure this process causes minimum disruption to people in and around the City Centre. Importantly we are still on track for completion in Autumn 2012.

 

Terry Follows Denver as Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent

Popular Independent Councillor Terry Follows will be sworn in as the next Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent on 26th May.

Terry the newly elected Councillor for Hanford & Trentham will take the office vacated by the hugely successful Cllr Denver Tolley who retires from both the office of Lord Mayor and as a city councillor.

Denver’s year in office coincided with the celebrations to
mark the Centenary of the Federation of the 6 Towns.

Cllr Follows’s consort is to be his friend Jackie Pearson.

Terry is a true Stoke lad. Born in Fenton the son of a miner and a pottery worker, he was first elected to serve in Fenton. He has been a city councillor for a total of 15 years.

Terry was originally a Conservative Councillor and when he first stood for election in the ward of Trentham he actually defeated the sitting Independent councillor.

Following a disagreement over the future of Trentham High School, Terry left the Conservatives and joined the City Independent Group. He was Deputy Leader of the CIG until the recent election.

Speaking to Terry today, he said that he was extremely proud and honoured to be considered for the office of the First Citizen of the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

He is expected to be elected unopposed at the Annual Council Meeting on 26th May which can be viewed online at the city council website from 11am.

Labour councillor for the new ward of Etruria & Hanley Majid Khan will be elected as Deputy Lord Mayor and will take office in May 2012.

Terry Follows will take his easy going nature into the
role as Lord Mayor which will ensure his success in the ceremonial role. He will also adopt an easy going approach to his role as the Chairman of the City Council.

The Lord Mayor is the First Citizen of Stoke-on-Trent, and with this comes a high profile role in promoting and maintaining the interests of the city and its people.

The Lord Mayor attends a variety of engagements throughout his year in office, such as Civic Receptions, Parades and general visits.

Current Lord Mayor Cllr Denver Tolley has excelled at all aspects of the role and Terry Follows will be as equally successful for sure.

Staffs Uni Hope To Avoid £9k Fees

Staffordshire University is the latest university to announce its plans for tuition fee rises from September 2012 onwards but is planning to avoid any £9,000 per year charges.

The government announced large cuts to the Higher Education budget last year, leaving Universities with a large blank in their income projections.

After a controversial vote sparking protests across the country, the government decided to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 per year to students to cover the costs.

Many universities have announced that they will be charging the full £9,000 per year – including neighbour university, Keele.

The plans must be approved by the Office of Fair Access before becoming official.

However, students will still be charged thousands of pounds more than current students who pay £3,290 per year.

The University has published the following proposals for its 2012 fees scheme:

 Full-time classroom-based degrees: £7,490 per year
 Full-time laboratory/studio-based and resource intensive degrees: £7,990 per year
 Nationally-leading degrees: £8,490 per year
 Two-year fast-track degrees: £8,890 per year
 Placement fee of £1,000 for the year spent in industry on a four-year sandwich course.

Nationally-leading degrees are ones for which Staffordshire University is recognised for its excellence. The examples the universities gives are Broadcast Journalism and Film and Technology courses.

Although the charges for the majority of courses may still be £7,490 or higher, the fees may help Staffordshire University appeal to more non-local students as a place to study, and Stoke-on-Trent as a place to live and possibly work during and after study.

According to The Sentinel, 80% of students will pay under £8,000 per year under the proposals.

“One of the strengths of this University is in providing courses which are relevant to a modern and rapidly changing world. Our graduates will leave us as knowledgeable, capable, skilled and highly employable individuals.”