Budget Consultation Events

If you want to go and speak to members of the Cabinet about the proposed 2012 budget you can do so at the following locations.

Potteries Shopping Centre – Thursday 1 December 6-8pm
Norton Childrens Centre – Monday 5 December 2-4pm
Blurton Community Centre – Tuesday 6 December 2-4pm
Dimensions, Burslem – Friday 9 December 6-8pm
Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre – Tuesday 13 December 2-4pm
Wallace Sports Centre, Abbey Hulton – Wednesday 14 December 6-8pm
Meir Community Education Centre – Friday 16 December 2-4pm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Answering Questions About Their Mandate For Change Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have announced that the Cabinet will be taking to various venues across the city over the next two weeks to answer questions from the public on its ‘Mandate for Change’ budget proposals for 2012 to 2013.

The public consultation will be launched on Thursday 1 December during late night shopping outside the Potteries Shopping Centre between 6pm and 8pm. Members of the Cabinet will also be attending events across the city to answer questions on their budget proposals. The events will take place in the North, South and central parts of the city and will include daytime as well as evening events.

Public consultation on the proposed budget closes on 23 December.

Councillor Mohammed Pervez, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said

Over the next few weeks, we will be seeking feedback on the budget proposals from the public, elected members, staff, partners, MP’s and businesses in the city. We will be listening to their concerns and answering questions. We will also welcome any further suggestions on how the council can save money.

We are committed to our Mandate for Change to make our city a great place to live and bring business. Last year we were faced with making £36m worth of cuts, and now we are faced with another huge task. However, this year our budget is not all about cuts; we are also saving to invest in our city to create the right conditions to stimulate the local economy.

It is absolutely vital that the private sector kick starts the economic regeneration of our city. Businesses, small and large, need to stimulate growth through expansion and job creation. The recent government cuts to local authorities mean that public sector will not have the means to do this. We therefore need to give business confidence to invest in Stoke-on-Trent through our ability to manage large projects such as the £250m Building Schools for the Future scheme. The additional £5m savings will give us the resource we need to further build confidence and attract businesses willing to invest in our city.

I have no doubt that year two of cuts is going to be very painful and tough with some extremely difficult decisions to be made on some equally worthy competing priorities.

A full list of the consultation events can be found using the links below.

Pits n Pots reader & regular commentor, Ian Norris E-mailed the council leader to ask some questions about total spending on, PFI schemes, landfill tax, waste disposal, energy, vehicles & capital investment for this year & last year as well as the council prediction for next year in the budget so he could respond to the consultation.

Mr Norris from Tunstall did not recieve a response from the Council Leader or Officer, he was sent a standard E-mail from the Freedom of Information office explaining that he had sent in a Freedom of Information request and he should expect a response by 22 December, just one day before the consultation closes.

Mr Norris said

I am greatly concerned that the Council Leader was unable to answer a simple question about his budget. This information should be readily available as part of the budget consultation. I am appalled that he has submitted the question as a Freedom of Information request in my name.

I have since recived a phone call from the council who want to speak to me about the request, I have responded to say I want a written reply to my question and not just a phone call.

So although the Council Leader welcomes and further suggestions on how the couuncil can save money, it seems that you can only do this if you don’t ask too many questions about the budget.

Council Services Affected By Strike Action On Wednesday

A number of Stoke-on-Trent City Council services will be affected by the industrial actioon taking place across the country on Wednesdy 30 November.

Below is the current list of services that are due to be affected, please check the council website, and twitter feed (http://www.twitter.com/sotcitycouncil) for any updates.

Waste and recycling collections across Stoke-on-Trent will not take place on Wednesday, residents due to have their grey domestic waste bin collected on this day will be able to place extra waste out on their next collection day. The same goes for those people expecting to have recycling collections on Wednesday, these will also be missed and will be collected on the next due day.

A large number of schools are expected to be closed on Wednesday, and a number of other council services will be disrupted or closed. Residents are asked to have patience while the strike action takes place and only contact the council in an emergency. The authority’s Stoke on Call contact centre will be operating a minimum service and residents are asked to wait until the next day (Thursday) to raise a query, or email a request which will be dealt with as soon as normal service is restored.

The council apologies for any inconvenience caused. Housing maintenance services will be operating a responsive repairs emergency service only for housing tenants and public buildings. 

Services that will be closed on Wednesday 30 November:

  • Waste collections
  • Fenton Day Centre
  • Burslem Day Centre
  • Longton Day Centre
  • Carmountside Crematorium
  • Bereavement Care Office
  • Public Mortuary – closed but emergency arrangements in place
  • Registrars – closed but one wedding that has already been booked will take place
  • Licencing Office
  • Environmental Heath
  • Trading Standards
  • Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
  • Gladstone Pottery Museum – only open for existing school bookings
  • Tunstall library
  • Trentham library
  • Longton Library
  • Meir Library

Schools that will be closed on Wednesday 30 November – please note this may be subject to change, parents are asked to contact their school for up-to-date details:

  • Abbey Hill School and Performing Arts College
  • Abbey Hulton Primary School
  • Alexandra Infant School
  • Alexandra Junior School
  • Ash Green Primary School
  • Aynsley Special School – TBC
  • Ball Green Primary
  • Belgrave St Bartholomew’s Academy
  • Bentilee Nursery School
  • Birches Head High School – closed except for individual exam groups
  • Blurton Primary School
  • Burnwood Nusery School
  • Burnwood Primary School
  • Christchurch Primary School – only closed to reception, year 2, year 3 and year 6 pupils
  • Clarice Cliff Primary School
  • Crescent Primary School
  • Eaton Park Primary School
  • Discovery Academy
  • Etruscan Primary School
  • Forrest Park Primary School
  • Gladstone Primary School
  • Goldenhill Primary School – only closed to year 1 pupils
  • Grange Nursery School
  • Greenways Primary School
  • Grove Junior School
  • Hamilton Infant School
  • Hanley St Luke’s CE Primary School
  • Harpfield Primary School – only closed to foundation and year 5 pupils
  • Haywood High School and Engineering College
  • Heron Cross Primary School
  • Hillside Primary School
  • Holden Lane High School School and Specialist Sports College
  • Holden Lane Primary School
  • Jackfield Infants School
  • John Baskeyfield CE Primary School
  • Kemball Special School
  • Kingsland Nursery School
  • Kingsland Primary School
  • Maple Court Primary School
  • Middlehurst Special School – both sites closed
  • Milton Primary School
  • Mill Hill Primary School
  • Moorpark Junior School – closed except for two year 4 classes (open all day) and one year 6 class (open in the afternoon only)
  • Newstead Primary School
  • New Ford Primary School
  • Northwood Broom Community School
  • Norton Primary School
  • Oakhill Primary School – closed except for Nursery, Silver Birch (Reception), Willow (year 1), Cedar (year 2), Tulip (years 3 and 4) and Cherry (year 6)
  • Ormiston Horizon Academy
  • Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy
  • Our Ladys Catholic Primary School
  • Our Lady & St Bendicts Catholic Primary School
  • Packmoor Primary School
  • Parkhall Primary School
  • Priory Primary School
  • Sandford Hill Primary School
  • Sandon High School Business and Enterprise College
  • Smallthorne Primary
  • Sneyd Green Primary School
  • St Augustines Catholic Primary School
  • St George and St Martins Catholic Primary School
  • St Gregorys Catholic Primary School
  • St John’s Primary School – closed except for year five/six mixed class
  • St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School
  • St Joseph’s College Edmund Rice Trust Academy
  • St Margaret Ward Catholic School and Arts College
  • St Maria Goretti Catholic Primary School
  • St Marks Primary School
  • St Mary’s Catholic Primary School
  • St Mary’s CE Primary School
  • St Matthews Primary School
  • St Paul’s CE Primary School
  • St Peter’s Catholic Primary School
  • St Peters Academy
  • St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School – closed except for one reception class and year 5/6 mixed class
  • St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary School
  • St Thomas More Catholic College
  • St Wilfrids Catholic Primary School
  • Stoke Minster Primary School
  • Summerbank Primary School
  • Sutherland Primary School
  • The Co-operative Academy at Brownhills – closed except for year 11 for revision/coursework
  • Thistley Hough High School
  • Thomas Boughey Nursery School
  • Trentham High School
  • Waterside Primary School
  • Westfield Nursery School
  • Weston Coyney Infant School
  • Weston Coyney Junior School
  • Whitfield Valley Primary School
  • Willows Primary School
  • Merit Pupil Referral Unit
  • Reach Key stage 3 and 4

Leek Community Benefit Society- why the co-operative approach?

I have been involved in the Leek Co-operative for the Benefit of All since its inception in February. The driver behind the Leek group has been to develop the Co-operative Emporium the 100th anniversary is celebrated this year. A group was established at the beginning of the year with the aim of developing co-operatives in the town around the umbrella organisation of the Emporium. We opened the ground floor of the three stories building last August and we have held a number of events to inform the business planning process. For instance one event that I was involved in was the Enterprise Day on the 14th October which attracted a number of individuals interested in setting up a business. We are developing the co-operative on a piecemeal basis and we are having a formal opening next year. But why this approach?

The global economic crisis is the most recent and potent factor in changing the bigger picture. And Leek as other towns in North Staffs the impact has been deep. The crisis has resulted in a fundamental change in attitude to the traditional business model of investor ownership. Prior to that, since the collapse of communism, investor ownership had not just been the dominant business model; it really was the only show in town. It was the idea and questioning its validity ““ or suggesting that it was inherently flawed ““ was unthinkable. Those doubts have re surfaced with the Occupy movement posing searching questions of “crony” capitalism
Intellectually, the previously unquestioned assumptions are now open for discussion. The old “Ëœcertainties’ have gone. At grass roots level, the change from a general feeling of prosperity and security to a feeling of worrying uncertainty has been dramatic and profound in all communities. More difficult circumstances and anxiety about the future undoubtedly affect how people think and behave. There is a natural tendency to band together, to look for and talk about ways of addressing immediate difficulties, and finding common solutions, which help individuals and others in need. Self-help revives in the face of adversity when other sources of help seem to be failing. The example of the USA in the 1930s is a good historical example
The context today is therefore very different from that of ten or even five years ago. Perhaps it gives rise to a more sober and reflective mood. The resurgence of interest in mutual models of ownership, both in terms of existing and of new organisations, suggest that the self-help business model may have a contemporary relevance which is growing in importance.
The recent economic difficulties have damaged the credibility of investor-ownership. Damage has been caused because of the perception that the loss of thousands of jobs and the collapse in the value of shares ““ affecting the savings and pensions of many people on modest incomes ““ are at least in part caused by greed and the pursuit of private interests. The profit motive is not a popular concept at the moment. The pursuit of huge gains by some prominent individuals in the commercial world, and the apparent failure of a significant number of politicians to understand how their behaviour in optimising personal private gain is unacceptable, have made this even worse. And this feeling gained further impetus with the publication of the High Pay Commission this week

So, given the social context, recent developments in mutuality and the prevailing economic circumstances, the self-help model seems to be both relevant and appealing. But how will it meet today’s needs? That is the question we are posing in Leek.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Good With Our Data?

An investigation by Big Brother Watch has shown the true extent of data loss and misplacement by local authorities in the UK.

Every Local Authority in the UK was issued with a Freedom of Information request asking about data loss for the three years up until July 2011, from the information gained from the 132 local authorities who did respond, BBW found there were 1035 incidents of data loss including evidence that more than

  • 244 laptops and portable computers
  • 98 memory sticks
  • 93 mobile devices

went missing.

According to the report in the three years of information requested Stoke-on-Trent City Council had the following breaches of data security.

  • 2 case files misplaced during an office move – Adult care information
  • Lost Blackberry device – Not recorded, device security locked and encrypted
  • Memory stick lost in Hanley – Children’s Services case files of approximately 40 individuals’ records held on device
  • Memory stick lost on car park which was found and returned – Encrypted data
  • Ring binder containing data on 3 service users were left within a secure council compound but accessible to council staff from another team – Copies of social work data

Stoke-on-Trent are not the best, as a number of authorities who responded to the requests said they had had no breaches and they are nowhere near the worst when you look at the top ten worst authorities in the report.

  1. Buckinghamshire (72 incidents)
  2. Kent (72)
  3. Essex (62)
  4. Northamptonshire (48)
  5. North Yorkshire (46)
  6. Renfrewshire (41)
  7. West Sussex (36)
  8. Tower Hamlets (31)
  9. Telford and Wrekin (30)
  10. Cornwall (25)

The Manchester Connection- truth or paranoia?

I was having a chat with a well-respected individual in the city about the possibility of developing the Spode site. He was bemoaning the apparent deafness of the City Council to alternative suggestions for the Spode site.

I must admit that I have some sympathy with his position my own experience over the years with local authorities and any ideas that I have produced with regard to regeneration of North Staffs. I have put forward ideas of the green economy, tourism and LETS schemes in the area to receive no response. I know that some of the ideas that I have put forward are good ideas, as they seem to work elsewhere. What seems to work well in places such as Pittsburgh, Glasgow and Sheffield , for instance, should equally work well in North Staffordshire in my opinion. But I will write my ideas and even see officers of the City Council and the Chamber of Trade and for there to be no response. In one case I was so annoyed by the rudeness shown that I complained about an officer from the Chamber of Commerce.

This is an important question how can concerned citizens of the area influence policy if the officers of the authority are dismissive?

One of the problems as I see it is the lack of interest and unwillingness to invest careers in the area. I was talking to David who has been pushing the idea of the Middleport Canal Basin for many years now. He told Fred Hughes and I that over a ten-year period he had seen 14 different regeneration officers. Anyway I digress and back to the conversation.

The person I was having a conversation with mentioned the Hanley Bus Station development and the fact that the company that won the contract were French although they had a Manchester office. His concern briefly put is that contracts won seem to benefit North West based companies to the detriment of local companies.

I have two examples to add to this suspicion.

In the 90s I was walking through Piccadilly in Hanley and noticed that the company putting in paving stones in the pedestrian area was from Atherton near Wigan.

In another case a demolition of a Stoke school was carried out by a Greater Manchester company and allegedly they had to drive past Five Towns Demolition HQ in Fenton to work on the school.

My contact is of the belief that companies from outside the area win too many contracts. He is suspicious of this.

Is he right to be suspicious?

I have to say proof of the pudding is in the use of Community Benefit Clauses in contracts. If there is major work being carried out in the area on in the City the Council must ensure by use of CBC’s that work comes to locals.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget for 2012 -2013 Announced

The budget proposals unveiled yesterday by Stoke-on-Trent City Council will inject £5m into areas including boosting private sector job creation and kick-starting the local economy.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez has outlined the bold proposals in the face of stern government-imposed spending cuts. As part of the authority’s Mandate for Change the top priority is to create a great working city, to make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business. The council’s cabinet is implementing a raft of measures that will provide a ‘red carpet’ treatment to new businesses, improving key infrastructure links and boosting what the city has to offer. The measures come as the authority has announced it needs to find savings totalling £24m for the year 2012-13.

Councillor Pervez said

 

We are committed to our Mandate for Change to make our city a great place to live and bring business. But the government’s stance is forcing the way we have to make budget cuts. The government-imposed spending restrictions for the last two years have been the fiercest ever endured by this authority. Last year we were faced with making £36m worth of cuts, and this year we are faced with another huge task just to balance the books.

 

The way the government is imposing spending restrictions means we are no longer going to be able to sustain or create the same level of public sector jobs. Therefore it is crucial that the private sector can stimulate growth and has the ability to do this.

Our ambitious capital programme, such as the £250m Building Schools for the Future scheme, is giving the private sector confidence that we can deliver, and confidence for them to invest in Stoke-on-Trent.

Government-imposed cuts will next year reduce the council’s budget by £8m. On top of this, unavoidable costs such as inflation, legally-required staff increments, procurement and the payback for capital projects will total around £11m. This means the council needs to find £19m just to stand still.

But the council’s cabinet is proposing to invest an extra £5m in areas that will drive the city forward, redesigning the council for growth.

Key investment proposals in the budget will

  • Enable the construction of new access links to further open up Etruria Valley for expansion.
  • Provide small grants to give a facelift to independent retailers’ shop fronts in the city centre.
  • Complete the design of the city centre ring road.
  • Improve the appearance of the area in front of Stoke Station.
  • Help reduce traffic congestion by investing in the current signal network and additional bus priority systems.
  • Launch new business support packages to help new and growing local businesses.
  • Increase the number of foster carers in the city.
  • Provide training for children and young people with special educational needs to travel independently across the city.
  • Launch a range of city-wide events and festivals to increase the number of visitors into the city.
  • Bring forward proposals to secure the development of a comprehensive Cultural Quarter and city centre hotel.
  • Hold a housing self-build competition to encourage diverse and high quality residential developments.
  • Focus on getting tough on fraudulent activity, especially benefit and tenancy fraud.

During 2011/12, the city centre bus station will be completed, and site preparation and clearance for the £350m City Sentral leisure and retail development will take place. The council will improve day opportunities for adults with complex learning difficulties through a million pound redevelopment of Newstead Day Centre. The authority will also look to dispose of a number of buildings to support its investment programme.

 

Councillor Pervez said

 

In some parts of our city there is a culture of dependence, and we have to lift our residents out of this. If we can stimulate the economy and help the private sector to create jobs, they will have the means to have money in their pocket and not rely on the state. This will mean the council will then be able to focus on helping the most vulnerable.

 

I believe in being open and transparent, and the budget proposals are just that. Some of them are difficult and are extremely tough decisions to propose. We could simply cut and cut every year, or we could sit on our hands and do nothing. But both would be reckless and shirking our responsibilities. We are a responsible council, and take our responsibility to manage services and taxpayers’ money seriously. We need to save to invest and that is what these budget proposals are designed to do.

 

These are tough decisions to take, but we want to ensure that in making them we fully consider the views of local residents. That is why we are now embarking on a wide-ranging consultation process, and I urge as many people as possible to tell us their opinions. The proposals that we have put forward are just that – proposals. We need local people to contribute their views to help shape the decisions we make.

 

Details of the budget proposals can be found online at the link below. 

 

The council’s budget consultation will run until 23 December. Details of a consultation roadshow, where cabinet members and officers will be able to meet residents and explain the budget proposals, will be revealed later this week. Residents can give their feedback on the proposals by emailing budget2012@stoke.gov.uk.

 

Why Tesco’s on the Spode site is a bad idea

I saw an interesting article in the Guardian last week on the work of new designers in ceramics and a project supported by Staffs University called Flux to quote from the article
“A ground-breaking commercial collaboration between postgraduate design students at Staffordshire University and local industry has led to Stoke-on-Trent once again appearing on a new range of bone chinaware. The students have not only benefited from the kudos of helping to design it, but stand to receive a 4% royalty on sales and the chance to get involved in the commercial side of the venture.

The new brand is called Flux and its contemporary “mix and match” style reflects the current trend for affordable “chic informality” in home dining, which has replaced the full dinner service culture of past decades. Think spots, stripes, flowers and even buildings and giant letters in different typefaces with names like “Splat”, “Geometrix” and “Zoo”. The designs are deliberately complementary and intriguingly interchangeable.

The project was set up last year within Staffs university’s Faculty of Arts, Media and Design by Professor David Sanderson, director of its MA ceramic design course, with £20,000 funding from Higher Education Innovation Fund
The idea is simple ““ plain white bone china already made in Stoke-on-Trent is decorated with the 12 designs in the range. Sales ““ and 96% are to export markets ““ have been mainly through international trade fairs. Buyers from China, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Russia have snapped up the designs, with the “bling factor” of the cobalt and gold combination particularly popular.

Production costs have been kept down by using basic, simple shapes already being manufactured, and a move into matching glassware, using stencils of the same designs, is possible.

Students have benefited from the chance to sell their work internationally and get experience of sales and marketing at a time when factory closures mean there are limited opportunities to get hands-on experience at local level”
I thought what an interesting idea and what great possibilities to develop the Spode site instead of the usual supermarkets plan which seems to be the only idea that the City Council are pushing with at the moment

The problem with Tesco on the Spode site. Well I will list just a few.

It is perhaps important for the naysayers to the Tesco plans to counter some of the arguments advanced by the Council. Chief amongst them is the jobs argument

Will the supermarket developments lead to more jobs? On the face of it this looks like a no brainer, of course it will

However I think there are some questions that need to be raised
Supermarket companies claim that all these impacts should be overlooked because they are providing jobs for local people. Supermarkets have been using this argument to gain planning permission for so-called regeneration sites ““ putting up large superstores on brownfield sites. Any opposition to the new store can be quickly overcome by the promise of jobs in areas where they may be very hard to come by. For those people who do escape long-term employment for a job at a new superstore there is no doubt this must be beneficial, but the question is whether there are wider costs.
Do the supermarkets really provide extra jobs?

Supermarkets usually herald plans for new superstores with the claim that they will bring hundreds of new jobs. Considering how many new stores have been opened, this should add up to a significant increase in employment nationally. But the figures don’t add up. Supermarkets are very efficient companies, particularly when it comes to the productivity of their staff. One study, which compared national retail employment between 1991 and 1995 against employment claims made by the supermarkets noted that while grocery retail sales grew in that period by 12.3 per cent, grocery retail employment did not grow by the same amount ““ just 2.7 per cent growth

.So while the businesses grow, numbers of staff do not grow as fast. As the author of the study commented, the “extra jobs have simply evaporated in the competitive process”.
Another way to look at this question would be to consider how many people would be employed if grocery sales were not dominated by supermarkets, but were instead in the hands of smaller grocery stores. In 2004, small grocery shops had a total turnover of around £21 billion and employed more than 500,000 people. The big supermarket chains in that year have much bigger sales (Tesco alone has a turnover of £29 billion) yet they only employ around 770,000 people. So the supermarket chains control more than 80% of the grocery market and yet they employ only 50% more staff than small shops. The simple conclusion is that small shops are better for employment than having a superstore.
Any council wanting to increase local employment would be better off encouraging new local businesses and tourism than trying to attract a supermarket .
If one is looking to test this hypothesis look at how the present Sainsbury’s development in the centre of Stoke has had an impact upon local shops. Sainsbury’s may have been put on the Minton Pottery site by offering a package that regenerates the town, but the reality is somewhat different.

Here Today, Cannes tomorrow

I notice that the City Council is sending 4 representatives to Cannes. This Council have made 4 trips to the South of France since 2003 and this is another made by Mark Meredith.

Cllr Meredith is quoted as saying

This event is the perfect international platform to further showcase City Sentral to leading retail and leisure businesses and their advisors. Stoke-on-Trent needs to be in Cannes and we are shouting about what Stoke-on-Trent has to offer from the rooftops.

City Sentral is one of the most important schemes being developed in the UK and our city has the potential to be a major shopping destination. We are committed to making our city the place to bring business and we are determined to do all we can to kick-start our economy, raise the quality of life of local residents and boost employment opportunities.

Events like this showcase the significant opportunities our city has to offer.

In March 2008 Mayor Meredith went to Cannes again to promote Stoke I wrote a letter to the Sentinel on the 13th March 2008

I read the report of the elected Mayor’s visit to the South of France to attend the MIPIM conference. I suppose there are two questions that arise out of the story. Will the visit of the Mayor and his party eventually lead to attracting inward investment and secondly is the party going to Cannes unusually large or could information be achieved in other ways without the cost to local taxpayers?

I checked on the MIPIM conference website- and with the rider that it is in the interest of the conference organisers to talk up the merit of their event- it does seem to be impressive in the range of speakers and events that have been arranged.

There are 56 British local authorities attending the conference as well as Stoke including Manchester, Liverpool, Greater London and Birmingham. Stoke is unusual in having representatives from the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership was also present. I would have thought that having both organisations present is an unnecessary doubling up of representatives. I did not see any of the regeneration agencies for Merseyside or the North East attending. I presume those parts of the country thought that one delegated authority was enough.

Mayor Meredith mentions in his response to the Sentinel questioning that the conference gave him the opportunity to meet with officers and members of Manchester and other councils present to discuss their approach. Does he have to go to the South of France to meet people from Manchester and what about the local authorities that were not present at MIPIM?

A good example of a Local Authority that has attracted high tec and skilled jobs that has not attended MIPIM also lies on the A6- Derby. When Ted Smith was leader of the City Council over a decade ago his vision was to put Stoke on a par with the major regional cities such as Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham. The truth is that , while recognising that there have been improvements in recent years, the city has been overtaken by smaller regional cities and authorities such as Derby, Wigan and Wolverhampton in improving the quality of life and attracting well paid long term skilled jobs.

We have here is referred to as an hour glass economy where 20% of the workforce have well paid jobs over £27,000 while the majority of the working population have to survive on low paid, insecure, short term jobs. I see nothing in the jobs advertised locally to suggests that this situation is changing locally. The employment structure of North Staffs seems to rest increasingly on agency working for many people.

The “2 speed” economy characterise many cities in the North and the Midlands where higher than average unemployment and population loss has not been halted despite the millions of regeneration money poured into the area. How then do we ensure that well paid, secure jobs are created for all and that North Staffs avoids some of the problems that have occurred elsewhere? Guessing the new type of industries that will be created is always going to be problematic but in 1990 the Japanese Government attempted to speculate on the sort of new industries that would thrive in the early 21st century.

They suggested industries such as microelectronics, biotechnology, the new material sciences, green technologies, telecommunications, civilian aircraft production, machine tools and computers would be the winners, and I think they were correct in their guesswork.

The majority of them man made brain power industries that can be located anywhere on the earth. How can North Staffs take advantage of these developments ensuring that local people have high wages and a high standard of living? And do the people who have gone to Cannes have the vision to tackle these problems?

I posed those questions 3 years ago and I suppose the same questions can be equally applied. In all the visits that have been made to Cannes over the last decade has this generated one job?