No pay offer to local government employees for third consecutive year

The 1.6 million local government employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being informed that in order to protect funding to vital frontline services and reduce further job losses, no pay offer will be made to local government employees for 2012/13.

Sarah Messenger, LGA Head of Workforce, said

This has been a very difficult decision to make but it is the right one for council tax payers and the workforce as a whole. A combination of rising costs and shrinking local government funding means councils were left with little choice. Increasing pay would mean more job losses and cuts to the services people need. Continue reading

City Sentral Another Week

Another week on and another Council Budget agreed with pledge to spend £12million and complete Hanley Ring Road, after the last proposal for another Hotel and another Casino failed to materialise and increase our Council Tax by 3.49%

Oddly enough my first suggestion for a retailer to contact on their interest in our City came from a local Councillor, Cllr Rosenau suggested on twitter for her followers to contact Hotel Chocolat about coming to Hanley. Who I am to ignore Cabinet Member for Regeneration she must know a thing or two. So I send off my email hoping above hopes that this will be the first positive response ( I have insider information dont I ) but sadly no yet another negative reply Continue reading

Olympic Souvenirs

Dear Sir,

I understand from an article that appeared in a national newspaper this weekend that over 90% of souvenirs for the London Olympics are produced abroad primarily China. When Britain successfully gained the right to host the 2012 Games we were lead to believe that this would be a major boost to the manufacturing sector in the UK. This has now proved illusionary, but what is particularly galling is the way in which British pottery companies like Royal Doulton and Wedgwood have out sourced much of their production of Olympic pottery to the Far East. Despite being decorated with Union Jacks and London’s famous landmarks, fine bone china teapots, cups and saucers, vases and pottery are being produced 6,000 miles away in Thailand and China. At a time when over 8,000 people from the Potteries are out of work I would describe the action of companies like Wedgwood as little more than treachery directed at the community which created the company in the first place.

Bill Cawley

Tax Payers Alliance name Sarah Hill Pin Head of the month for February

Sarah Hill TPA pinhead of the monthThe Tax Payers Alliance have voted Councillor Sarah Hill, the Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Member for Finance as their Pin Head of the month for February.

According to the TPA Sarah is the driving force behind moves to refuse the Government’s funding that would enable a council tax freeze in Stoke-on-Trent this year and instead is pushing ahead with a 3.49% increase in bills at a time when many residents are struggling with the rising cost of living. On Thursday Sarah and her fellow councillors were set to vote through this rise, despite previous TPA research and official statistics pointing to areas where costs are already running too high, such as Continue reading

Landsbanki make £1.5m payment to Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced today it was one of the 80 councils that has received its first repayment from money owed after the collapse of the Icelandic bank, Landsbanki.

The city council received £1.5m of its £5m owed and is expecting more installments in the future. Stoke-on-Trent City Council lost the money in the Icelandic banking crash after an email, sent by the council’s credit agency, which showed a downward review of Landsbanki’s credit rating, was not acted upon by one of the council’s officers.

Sarah Hill, cabinet member for finance, said this morning

This is excellent news for the city council and a well-deserved success for the Local Government Association (LGA) and its partners in the Supreme Court case. The way in which we have co-ordinated the legal action with the LGA, and other local authorities is an example of our effectiveness as a council, we have minimised legal costs and provided excellent value for money for the taxpayer.

This is very welcomed money for the council, £1.5m is a lot of money but it isn’t new money, it is money we were confident we would get back and is already committed for capital expenditure over the next few years.

So unfortunately it doesn’t change the budget proposals before the council later this week. However it is good that after four years we know for certain we will get most of our money back from Landsbanki.

The legal action was, coordinated by the Local Government Association, to secure priority creditor status for UK local authorities following the winding up of Landsbanki and another bank Glitnir. Local authority funds worth £413m were held by Landsbanki when it collapsed in 2008, and the LGA expects some 98% to be eventually recovered.

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell, said

This is the result of four years of hard work on behalf of the sector and we are absolutely delighted that we have been able to help more than 80 local authorities.

City Sentral – Who’s coming?

With just 6 months to go until the new Bus Station in Hanley opens in Autumn 2012, its time to get excited about what is soon to come.

The opening of the Bus Station will finally allow the old Bus Station and surrounding buildings to be demolished making way for City Sentral.

Consultation has now started on the Bus re-routing  and highway changes required to allow speedy clear access for Buses to the new Station

The City can then move on to the next phase of the development “City Sentral” we know that Marks & Spencers will be the main anchor retialer and the Vue will operator the Cinema. Travelodge are likely to be the Hotel operator due to there past partnerships with Realis, but what of the 70 retailers?

Little has so far been revealed of who these maybe, only one way to find out if you can’t wait, E-mail some retailers.

So I sent this email

When will Stoke-on-Trent get a ****** store, we have two new development centres one an expansion of the existing Potteries Shopping Centre and a brand new £350million shopping precinct City Sentral. Have you yet expressed an interest in either development?

to

  • YO Sushi
  • H&M
  • Nandos
  • Krispy Kreme
  • CULT
  • FatFace
  • Zara
  • Giraffe
  • Wagamama
  • Cafe Rouge

I have only had few replies so far, some the to be expected noncommittal while others more direct and honest.

Many people in Stoke on Trent have been crying out for a Nando’s they have even set up a Facebook Page to the cause, sadly I feel this is unlikly as Nandos reply was

We don’t currently have any plans for a restaurant in Stoke-on-Trent.

Krispy Kreme, CULT, and Zara all said

At this moment in time we are not yet planning on opening a store in Stoke

I have yet to hear from any of the others but I will be providing updates as I do.

Has anyone heard any rumours? Does anyone have inside information or have suggestions on other retailers who I should contact?

Top financiers offer Stoke-on-Trent small businesses advice on accessing funding

A team of top financiers will be visiting Stoke-on-Trent next week giving small businesses advice on how to access essential funding despite the challenging economic times.

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is running an Open Access to Finance event on February 27. It follows the success of the first such event run by the LEP in January which attracted dozens of local companies.

The Open Access to Finance events are being run in conjunction with the Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS), which operates the Staffordshire Business Support Fund in conjunction with Staffordshire County Council.

Experts from commercial banks, small business loan funds, law firms and business schools will be on hand as well as corporate financiers, financial advisors, accountants, angel investors and business advisors.

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Mark Meredith, Cabinet member for Economic Development, said

As part of the Mandate for Change the city council is committed to supporting existing businesses to flourish. The Open Access to Finance workshop is another part of the Make It Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire investment development team’s red carpet approach to investment. The event is helping businesses at every stage with support and guidance to help their companies grow.

LEP chairman Maitland Hyslop said

Some of the organisations at our event provide financial services and can explain the right way to apply for loans. Others will provide expert advice. I hope as many businesses as possible come along to the event – it could really make a difference to securing their futures.

Staffordshire County Councillor Ben Adams, Cabinet member for Economic Growth and Enterprise, said

Staffordshire is full of entrepreneurs and we are bucking the national trend in job creation. However, many small and medium sized businesses are finding it incredibly difficult to secure the finances they desperately need to survive in the current economic climate.

This event aims to change that. It is companies like these that are the lifeblood of the local economy and we want to arm them with the information and advice that they need not only to survive but to thrive. This is an ideal opportunity for business men and women to meet a range of experts who can help them to get to the next level and achieve their aims.

Paul Kalinauckas, Chief Executive of BCRS, said

Our previous Open Access to Finance events which we have held in the Black Country and Staffordshire have received a high level of interest and this highlights that local businesses require more help and information to find out what funding is available. “We are delighted to be hosting this event in Staffordshire to offer businesses direct access to a number of financial organisations which can hopefully offer them support.

The event will take place at the Mitchell Arts Centre, Broad Street, Stoke-on-Trent, from 3pm-6pm.

Attendance to the event is free but people must register in advance at events@bcrs.org.uk.

People can find out more information by contacting 0845 313 8410.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service Pancake Warning

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to take care when cooking their pancakes tomorrow for Shrove Tuesday.

More than half of accidental house fires are caused by accidents in the kitchen. Station Manager, Brian Griffiths said

Shrove Tuesday means fun in the kitchen for adults and children alike however the novelty and excitement of making pancakes often makes people less cautious with their cooking.

A common scenario involves families tucking into their delicious freshly made pancakes, forgetting that they have left their frying pan on the hob, burning away. If this does happen to you and the pan catches fire, switch off the heat, if it is safe to do so. Then get out, closing the door behind you and call 999.

We would urge people to check that they have turned appliances off when they have finished using them and never leave cooking unattended – stay in the kitchen until you are finished and then switch off the appliance you have used.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is launching its annual cooking campaign this month to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving cooking unattended. The campaign is supported by hard-hitting posters bearing the message ‘Look When You Cook.’

In Defence Of The Young

In 1899 they were accused of blocking the pavement forcing decent people into the road in Derby St, swearing and playing cards on the Pickwood Rec.

In 1954 they were accused of intimidating passengers on the Cheddleton Bus, vandalising municipal flowerbeds and engaging in a mass punch up in Haywood St over the Easter weekend.

In 2011 they are accused of laziness, lacking a work ethic, according to local businessman, drunkenness, illiteracy and being ignorant.

In the three instances the accused are young people as portrayed by older people.
Its time for a defence to be launched.

I work with young people; I know of them and in the course of an ordinary day will come in contact with young people. Most I know in these settings are perfectly fine, courteous, hard working, amusing and to use the jargon of the time” customer focused”. I am sure that some young people behave badly as I know that there are some old people act outrageously. The old man last summer who swore vilely at a bus driver and thumped the side of the bus in Longsdon is one side of the equation as is the skinhead who helped me with a buggy in which lay my sleeping baby daughter in Lime St the other.

Could it be that young people today, as they were yesterday, are being deliberately misunderstood by politicians and journalists who wish to use them to suit their own ends? Do the young serve a useful function as a scapegoat for the inadequacies of their elders?

I am sure that if we consider the question of the alleged uselessness of the British teenager we can all think of individual acts of kindness carried out by them. I don’t envy the young today in a country which has burdened them with debt and in which over a million find themselves unemployed. And they are being written off. Yet they had nothing to do with this crisis and the young will picking up the bill for a long time. This crisis is caused by the uselessness of the old.

Ian Dudson appointed as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire

The Queen has been pleased to appoint Ian Dudson as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire to succeed Sir James Hawley when he retires on 28 March 2012.

Ian Dudson is an industrialist, whose family ceramics business has been based in Stoke-on-Trent for many generations. A recent High Sheriff, he is also a Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Keele University Council, Honorary President of the Douglas Macmillan Hospice, and a former trustee of Lichfield Cathedral. He is Chair of the Trustees of The Dudson Centre, which acts as a resource centre for voluntary groups.He was also a founding member of the local Enterprise Partnership Board. He has served as a Deputy Lieutenant for the last decade and was awarded a CBE for services to the ceramics industry in 2002.

Ian lives near Stoke-on-Trent with his wife, Jane, and has two daughters.

Speaking about his appointment, Mr. Dudson said

I am deeply honoured to have been appointed as Her Majesty The Queen’s Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire. I look forward to representing The Queen in the County of Staffordshire and in the City of Stoke-on-Trent

The modern responsibilities of Lord-Lieutenants include representing The Queen in the County, arranging visits of members of the Royal family, advising on honours nominations, promoting Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service and also Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and participating in civic, voluntary and social activities.

Sir James Hawley was appointed Lord-Lieutenant in 1993 and became a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in The Queen’s birthday honours in 2010. Sir James said

I am delighted that Ian Dudson is to be the next Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire. I am sure that Ian will represent The Queen in the County well, he is an active member of the community and has an extensive knowledge of the local commercial sector.

Staffordshire County Council Chief Executive and Clerk to the Lieutenancy Nick Bell said, 

We are delighted that Ian Dudson is to succeed Sir James Hawley, he will be an excellent ambassador for the County