Stoke-on-Trent City Council Consultations on new Alcohol Restriction Zone for Tunstall

Residents in Tunstall are being reminded to give their views on a proposed new Alcohol Restriction Zone in the area. Two consultation events will take place this week, at Tunstall Market on Wednesday 16 November and Friday 18 November, council officers will be available from 9am – 2pm on both days.

The proposed zone would cover the town centre and extend to other parts of the town as shown in the map.

Alcohol Restriction Zones are only put into place in areas that have experienced alcohol related disorder or nuisance, and give police officers the ability to ask people to stop drinking, and if they refuse, arrest them.

Tony Oakman, director of adult and neighbourhood services, said

This isn’t about making drinking a criminal offence in Tunstall, it’s about giving police officers the power to act if they feel that a problem is being caused by people drinking in a public place. Those drinking responsibly have nothing to worry about – the consultation will give people the chance to tell us if they think the conditions and the areas the zone will cover are appropriate.

LPT Commander for Tunstall, Chief Inspector Adrian Roberts added

We have been working closely with colleagues at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Safer City Partnership to tackle the issues being raised by local residents and the business community. This is about creating a safe and secure environment for people to go about their business without being affected by individuals who are under the influence of alcohol. Issues, such as anti-social behaviour as a result of drinking in the street, can cause misery and can blight communities and have a detrimental impact on businesses. I would like to encourage members of the public to give their views.

If any members of the community are unable to make it to either of the consultations and have any comments these can be made either in writing to

Safer City Partnership,
Town Hall, Civic Centre
Glebe Street
Stoke-on-Trent
ST4 1HH

or by email safer.citypartnership@stoke.gov.uk. 

Rummaging In The City’s “ËœLost Property’ Box

An announcement last week by Housing Minister Grant Shapps over Community Right to Reclaim Land has certainly struck a chord with me (http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/newsroom/1833125).

The principle behind this is to bring back into use empty public sector land and buildings, but the bit that really resonated with me was the proposal to simplify the process that means members of the public can call for empty public sector buildings and land to be sold, so they can be brought back into use.

So where does this fit with Meir Park & Sandon ward? Tucked behind a pair of padlocked gates, part way up Lightwood Road, lies Pittsburgh House, a former City Council dementia care home. Up close, this is a very grand property indeed that has lived a varied life, including time as a childrens home, before finally closing its doors several years ago. Since then, it has slowly fallen into disrepair, with occasional reports to local councillors of anti social behaviour.

Following my first “Ëœcomplaint’ about ASB there in June, I decided to find out what was planned for Pittsburgh House, and the answer was not a great deal. Is it up for sale? And if so, why not? Certainly, Pittsburgh House is not going to reopen, so with the enthusiasm of the keen DiYer, I thought this grand old lady might make a fantastic large family home? Or, in its wooded location, a good site for redevelopment? Who knows, but certainly standing empty and in limbo is not in anyone’s best interests. Empty buildings still cost money ““ security, essential maintenance, plus the loss of value that being empty naturally adds to the fabric of a property.

For me, Grant Shapps is talking about property such as Pittsburgh House. It is clearly never going to be reopened by the Council or other partners, and the best value for the residents of Stoke-on-Trent is to sell it. So you could say I have made it my mission to find a new life for Pittsburgh House ““ I’ve trampled round the footpaths surrounding it, spoken to those who have been involved with it, and have pestered to get “Ëœa plan’ in place for Pittsburgh House. A few weeks ago, myself and Cllr Clive Brian took the Council Chief Executive there to see the situation for himself. And things are finally moving as Pittsburgh House is up for sale.

But Pittsburgh House is just the tip of the iceberg. In the course of my investigations, I have come across a number of other properties all across the City that lie empty and in various states of disrepair. There are plans in place to review the buildings used everyday by the Council, but so far, this doesn’t seem to cover the empty buildings dotted around the City that really ought to be looked at. Equally, the small pieces of land, leftover from developments that lie fenced off and unused, gathering rubbish. We are not talking building plots here, just patches of ground that could become small community areas or parking spaces or residential gardens.

In the current economic climate, it makes sense to have “Ëœa plan’ for property across the City. It might not be feasible or economically sensible to sell every property that is empty or about to become vacant ““ and I certainly don’t subscribe to selling off properties that are the City’s “Ëœfamily silver’ ““ but leaving smaller premises empty and rotting, year after year, is in no-one’s best interests.

Stoke on Trent to re-think the way housing is allocating.

Stoke on Trent City Council have made plans to change the way it allocates its housing. They have said that in the past they had focused to much on filling homes other then finding the right tenants for the area the property is in.

Housing allocations service manager admitted on Friday night that aim had been to fill properties quickly and no thought had been put into actions. Now, new proposals are to put into consultation, with cabinet agreeing to them by the end of March.

This also means, if the changes go ahead that one housing officer will oversee a case throughout, a more rigid interview presses with prospective tenants and removal of choice-based lettings. These changes will be the first review of the policy for 4 years.

At the moment 9,500 people are shown on the council waiting list for property, with 1,800 or so homes becoming available every year. This means it can take from two to eight years for people to be re-housed. The average time a property is empty is 53 days.

Julie Griffin, housing allocations manager was speaking at a meeting she had been invited to by Paul Hulme, Meir High Residents’ Association chairman. Mr. Hulme blames bad tenants for bringing the area of Meir Down.

He said that the RA was sick of having all the problem people dumped in Meir. With much drug use and anti-social behaviour, decent people were put off moving to and living in the area.

Michael Coleman, councillor for the area said he believed that much of Meir’s problems were because of housing allocations policy. That it was a relentless problem and that the estate had problems regenerating with the constant allocation of properties to problematic tenants.

Do you think this is a good move, where dose the problem lie with these kind of people. They do have to live somewhere, don’t they. So what do we do, place them away from other troublesome families, get them to make an agreement that there further actions will improve, force them in privet rental homes.

Localism in Stoke-on-Trent ““ An Underworked Muscle?

The recently announced Localism Bill, which promises to return powers to local communities and councillors, has set me thinking a bit about the actual powers local councillors have already, particularly in Stoke-on-Trent.

I think I’m probably not alone in entering the Council and giving off an “ËœI’m going to change the world!’ vibe to everyone I met, though I did know before being elected that it’s not quite that simple. There are systems and processes, and committees and portfolio holders to work with to achieve change, and sometimes it does seem that the wheels of change turn so so slowly. And yes, it’s frustrating at times, but for me personally, I draw a great deal of satisfaction of making small but significant changes in my ward and AIT area (the larger Meir area), which helps me keep plugging away at the bigger things I want to see happen City-wide.

A lot of residents are aware that local councillors countrol pots of money to spend in their areas, and this represents where Stoke-on-Trent is already having a go at localism, though by no means do I think we’ve cracked it totally! For example, in Meir we have quite a lot of discussions about what people think of the area. I’m not going to perpetuate the myths that surround Meir by repeating them, but I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years and to be honest I can’t think of many areas of Stoke-on-Trent I’d rather live. However, to help improve the imagine of Meir, the local councillors have been working together with partners, local residents associations and businesses, to make Meir look nice. The flower baskets on the roundabout and in Weston Road all came about following a discussion one afternoon about making Meir better for everyone, and have been paid for from the ward budgets. They also present an attractive “Ëœgateway’ into the City from those entering along the A50 or A520.

So if we are already doing localism, what is this blog about? We are often criticised for being parochial as a council, where councillor fights councillor over which area “Ëœdeserves’ investment, all based on our belief that we are more deserving than our City-wide colleagues, and in a way that does happen, but really as councillors we already have that “Ëœmuscle’ ourselves. We already have access to a considerable amount of money in our ward budgets, but do we really spend it as we should?

I can’t comment on what other councillors spend their ward budget on, each area has its own priorities and needs, however I do think we sometimes lose perspective on the influence we have through the ward budget. I asked a friend who is a councillor on another Council what he would need to do if he wanted to get a new litter bin sited in his ward. After having to persuade his fellow ward councillors to support him, he would then need to persuade the portfolio holder and also the officer responsible for litter bins ““ not a quick and easy process. Contrast that to Stoke-on-Trent councillors ““ in my ward, we have already agreed a general “Ëœpot’ for additional litter bins and all I need to do is submit the location to our Local Office and wait for the bin to arrive. Even if we hadn’t already agreed a general fund for litter bins, I would only need to persuade my fellow councillors.

A small example maybe, but how about a bigger one? Allotments. We have a waiting list locally and few rarely become available, so we’re investigating creating some more. This goes hand in hand with the Healthy Eating project (run by a local health worker and Neos520, the Bethel Church community cafe) to encourage local residents to rely less on processed foods and takeaways, and cook healthy meals for themselves. Our local schools and residents associations are also involved.

How about Youth facilities? The ward budget helped fund several projects over the summer holidays, and we have also recently agreed funding for equipment for the Christian Growth Centre (CGC), based in Meir Park, to help with the sessions they already run in local schools, alongside the Council’s Uth Service.

Community Safety? Fear of crime and anti social behaviour (again linked to myths about the area ““ the crime rate in Meir is much lower than many people believe) led us to work with the Longton NPU in a project to supply residents with simple crime prevention equipment. We paid for the equipment, the police provided it and in some cases fitted it too. In Meir Park, a simple thing such as cutting back groundcover in ASB hot spots following a discussion with local officers and an impromptu site visit, has not only improved the appearance of the area but also hopefully helped the police tackle what I hope is a decreasing level of ASB in those areas.

But all this relies on councillors getting out there, and “Ëœdoing’ localism with residents, partners and the community at large. We don’t have millions to spend, but we can make a difference with what we have, we just need to realise it.

ASBO granted after threats to community

Stoke-on-Trent’s Safer City Partnership has been successful in its application for an Anti Social Behaviour Order against a woman who threatened residents in Brindley Ford.

Margaret Wooliscroft, aged 55, was told she must not shout, swear or use abusive language or insulting or threatening behaviour directed at any person in Bull Lane and Stadmoreslow Lane, Brindley Ford.

District Judge David Taylor granted the ASBO based on Mrs. Wooliscroft’s behaviour in the last six months. During this time, the court found she had:

* Used a wooden tool to damage the front door of a property in Bull Lane and the car parked outside.

* Shouted abuse at another resident of Bull Lane.

* Used foul and abusive language to a police officer and caused distress to a PCSO by shouting at her in Bull Lane.

* Caused alarm and distress by assaulting another female in Bull Lane.

* Caused alarm and distress to residents of Bull Lane by wailing and shouting whilst holding a wooden stick in an angry and aggressive way in Bull Lane.

{quote=Councillor Ross Irving, cabinet member for community safety, partnerships and the Local Strategic Partnership, said] “There was a real need for us to pursue this case due to the weight of evidence that had been gathered over the past few months.

“Abusing the police and threatening members of the public is unacceptable, and causing physical damage to other people’s property is equally reprehensible.

“Communities need to feel safe and secure, and that can’t happen if flagrant threats are made to residents on a consistent basis.

We work very hard with the police to gather evidence in these cases and we are very pleased that another application has been successful.”[/quote]

The Safer City Partnership, including the city council, Staffordshire Police, and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service was successful in 13 applications over the last 12 months.

High Rise Council Flats To Benefit From £1.9m Improvements

High rise council flats in Stoke-on-Trent are to benefit from almost £2 million of investment to improve fire safety measures, access and security.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is spending £1.9 million on a programme of works that will run until next April on properties across the city. The measures are designed to help drive up the standard of the environment for hundreds of city residents.

The works will see over 800 fire doors and over 400 flat doors installed in 10 blocks of flats in Blurton, Hanley, Stoke and Tunstall.

Twenty-six blocks of flats in Fenton, Hanley and other areas of the city will benefit from lightning protection measures. Door entry systems will be replaced in 10 blocks of flats in Meir to help improve security, and three blocks of flats in Hanley will have CCTV installed to help tackle anti-social behaviour.

A total of 42 small blocks of flats in Meir and other areas of the city will have improved emergency lighting installed, and nine blocks of flats in Fenton, Hanley and Tunstall will have roof access doors replaced to help make the buildings weather tight.

The roof of Honeywall House in Stoke will be replaced, with residents who lease their properties in the building asked to pay a contribution towards the work. Worn and damaged plastic glazing on both Robinson Court and Pedley Court in Blurton will also be replaced.

Funding for the scheme has come from money that has been ring-fenced within the council’s Housing Revenue Account.

“The funding for this work has come from existing council budgets to improve health and safety, and internal and external works in council flats. It has been carefully planned and budgeted for.

“This investment demonstrates the council’s commitment to continue to drive up the quality of life for residents across the city. We take our responsibility to our tenants very seriously and will be working hard over the coming months to carry out these improvements with as little disruption as possible.”

Reg Shaw, who has lived with wife Beryl in Forest Court, Hanley since the flats were built more than 30 years ago has welcomed the investment.

“I am over the moon about the works. We have noticed the need for maintenance work over the last few years, but we know that money is very tight and the council has to look at the entire city.

“Our flats are a lovely place to live, and are very close to the city centre. We are very pleased that these improvements are taking place.”

Tony Walley ““ On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Government Cuts Threaten Community Stability

The recent Government announcement that there will be a 4% cut in Police Funding is something that worries me greatly.

Staffordshire Police have the responsibility of keeping all 238,000 of the population of Stoke-on-Trent safe in an area of 36 square miles.

The forces Neighbourhood Policing Units [NPU] have proved to be a major success. They have brought a sense of good old fashioned policing [minus the clip "Ëœround the back of the ear] back onto the streets of our sometimes troubled City.

NPU’s have had a massive impact on reducing Anti Social Behaviour [ASB] across the city, in fact this year there has been a reduction of 20% in ASB incidents.

I have seen at first hand the way these NPU’s work, and the effect that they have on ASB. PCSO’s and PC’s patrol all areas in particular problem estates. They get to know the faces of the movers and shakers. They gain the trust of the young people and help them to find places like youth clubs so that they can hang out together safely and take part in a variety of activities provided by the Local Authority and the Police.

The partnership working between the council and the police has yielded dividends.

Area Implementation Teams working together with Ward Councillors and the NPU’s meet regularly and listen to the concerns of Resident Association representatives. This helps the Police to target areas where incidents of ASB are affecting the life of the residents of a particular area.

In the area that I live in, Rob Flello MP along with our ward councillors, the AIT and the Police worked together to snuff out what was a considerable amount of ASB that absolutely blighted the lives of the residents of Meir Hay and the surrounding areas. A Section 30 dispersal notice was implemented for a period of 6 months and complete calm was restored to the area.

Two years on and although there are a few isolated incidents, the area is relatively ASB free.

The impact of the cuts in funding to the Police as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the very recent announcement that Stoke-on-Trent City Council are looking to save £33million this year and the same for the next 3 consecutive years, will no doubt have a significant effect of the Policing and the services provided by our City Council.

If youth funding is cut and NPU’s are affected by cuts in Police funding, ASB could become a real problem for every community in the City.

Our NPU’s here in Stoke-on-Tent have played a prominent part in the success of the celebrated Operation Nemises. Cllr Abi Brown’s blog tells the tale, so does the number of cannabis factory closures across the city, including one on the corner of the cul de sac where I live.

David Cameron is always banging on about the big society. Well young people are a major part of our society. We must provide activities which are aimed towards their age groups and keeps them engaged. It is only when youth becomes disaffected that ASB pushes it’s self to the fore.

The big society would encourage the residents of the communities to provide the activities that would engage the youth of today.

But, a progressive society needs, in my opinion, services like the City Council’s Uth Service.

They get out there on the streets and they deliver the kind of activities that the youth of today want. If we cut this service, there will be, in all probability, a rapid rise in the number of reported ASB related issues.

If there are any changes to the way the NPU’s are run, or a reduction in the number of PCSO’s and PC’s on the beat, who will deal with the increased number of ASB incidents?

Furthermore, what impact will this reduction in funding have and will it result in the loss of youth services and an end to successful policing initiatives?

The answer is on that is quite simple and very probable, the lives of everyone who lives in all the communities across the 6 towns of Stoke-on-Trent will take a turn for the worse and ASB will become even more prominent on our streets.

I sympathise with Cllr Adrian Knapper who is fighting hard to keep the City Farm afloat in one guise or another. But I do wish our councillors would fight to keep our children’s centres and our youth services open and funded to a level where the services they provide can continue without a reduction.

Above all I appeal to all 60 elected representatives to fight to keep our celebrated and successful Police Force fully funded which will allow for the NPU’s to continue their invaluable work on the streets of our communities and our old people safe in their homes.

500 Words – Denver Tolley the Labour Candidate for Longton North


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**Archive Story From 2010 Election**
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I’ve served the Longton North area for more than twenty years now in one way or another. I live here, and I love the place.

Over the last few years, with my fellow Labour Councillors, Tom Reynolds and Mark Davis, I’ve worked hard to improve things, but also to keep people in touch with what we’re doing. This is something I intend to keep pushing if I’m re-elected.

There have been a lot of changes over the years, and one I’ve really welcomed has been the introduction of the ward budgets ““ it means we’ve finally got some of the things that I’ve been fighting for over years ““ it also means we’ve been able to focus on the things local people have told us are their priorities.

A couple of years ago Longton North had a really bad anti-social behaviour problem ““ so bad that the police imposed Section 30 dispersal orders – but since then things have started to improve. We’ve put money into extra policing, we’ve got youth services out on the streets, and we’ve made sure the Council use the tough new powers they’ve been given by the Labour Government to tackle nuisance neighbours and things like litter louts and fly-tippers. Now I’m not saying everything is perfect ““ we still have too many gangs of kids hanging around on street corners, too much graffiti, too much litter ““ but things are getting better and I want to see that continue. Particularly with the summer months coming up we shouldn’t become complacent.

Our Town Centre is still strong, but needs building up. I’m proud to serve on the Longton Regeneration Board, which is working with local people to create plans for the future of the town. There are lots of exciting things coming forward, but sadly too many things are out of our hands. The Council had to fight for years to get the old burnt out bakers shop knocked down in The Strand, because it was in private hands. I’d love to see the Railway Bridge painted and I’ve been working with Rob Flello on this, but until Network Rail give the go ahead nothing can happen. There are too many derelict buildings that need to come down, but their owners aren’t cooperating with us.

I have had the honour of being Deputy Lord Mayor for the past 12 months and it has given me the opportunity to see the talent, good work and pride within our City.

We’ve got lots of choices in front of us as an area ““ particularly the issue of the new High school to serve our area and I want to see a school on the Mitchell site to serve Bentilee and another school, possibly on one of the current sites, to serve our young people. Big decisions like this need local knowledge and experience – things I’ve got a plenty of ““ I hope I’ll get the chance to carry on serving the people of Longton North and the City.

Chancellor No Darling Over Cider Tax

Cider drinkers all over the country are today wishing that they could put Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling through a cider press for taxing their favourite bevvy by a whopping 10%!

The budget has already being dubbed as the ‘Mangner’ Carter by cider lovers.

A Facebook group called ‘LEAVE OUR CIDER ALONE!’ was set up within hours of the announcement and as of this morning 15000 people had signed up.

Another Facebook protest group called ‘Campaign to get The Wurzels to No1 in protest of Cider getting a 10% tax!’ has been set up and is campaigning to get the Wurzels ‘I Am A Cider Drinker’ [god help us!] to No 1 in protest at Alistair Darling’s budget announcement.

Cider and Scrumpy producers are outraged at the tax increase and are highlighting the fact that the cider making process is much longer than the beer making process and they are fearful of some of the smaller producers going out of business.

A newly planted orchard takes three years to produce apples that are fit for the cider making process.

Many people think that the Chancellor has increase the tax on cider by 10% to discourage binge drinking and young people drinking on the streets that often fuels anti social behaviour.

“Super-strength” ciders are to be re classed the same as made wine from September and subjected to an extra £2 per litre tax.

The Chancellor has been accused of stealing the Conservative plan to levy more tax on strong cider and beer to deter binge drinking by teenagers and to deter alcohol abuse.

Some of the cheapest ‘White Lightening’ type brands are on sale in Supermarkets and cheap booze outlets for around £6.19 for 8 cans that are 7.5%abv.

I think most average folk like a drink, I know I do and while I’ve never really been a cider drinker, I have on occasion tried the real cider that is produced down in Somerset and parts of Devon whilst on holiday and really enjoyed it.

The real concern is that this tax damages those small producers who are looking at producing quality ciders, often organic into a niche market that no way includes those who want to get off their faces on cheap mass produced cider.

The real question is why should those producers be disadvantaged by this tax.

If we really want to hit those who abuse alcohol and those who drink to fuel anti-social behaviour, wouldn’t it be better to force the supermarket to stop doing the BOGOF offers and those promotions that see teenagers queuing at the tills in large numbers?

Wouldn’t it be more sensible to raise the tax substantially on those beers and ciders that are over say 5.5%abv?

There were some decent proposals in the budget yesterday and it wasn’t as bad as some had predicted to this one tax may overshadow all the rest and could prove to be another own goal for the Labour Party on the run up to the General Election.

Trumpet Passage

By Mike Rawlins

Trumpet Passage, the city centre alleyway on Parliament Row next to MacDonalds, which has suffered from late night anti-social behavioural problems, is the first North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership (NSRP) project as part of major improvements to the city public realm.

Gates with trumpet shaped metal bars have been fitted at either end of the busy thoroughfare so that the alleyway can be locked at night to block out problems in the back-alley well-known for its association with drugs and crime.

Stoke-on-Trent Lord Mayor Derek Capey cut the ribbon to unveil the innovative designs.  Local trumpet player Dan Fox, who is from the City Music and Performing Arts School,  marked the occasion with a fanfare of music.

Councillor Adrian Knapper, Stoke-on-Trent City Council portfolio holder for regeneration and economic development, said: “Alley gates provide a great way of keeping out the kinds of trouble which often blight people’s lives. These innovative gates, which reflect the character of the area, are a fantastic addition to the public realm of the city. It will make this pedestrian route cleaner, safer and better for everyone.”

The gates have been designed and produced by David Hinde, of Verdigris Contemporary Metalwork. Made out of stainless steel they reflect the location name with fluted trumpet shapes replicating a traditional fanfare of trumpets. The gates follow a number of problems in the passageway late at night. Due to the “ËœS’ shaped design of the alleyway CCTV was inappropriate so the gates were developed to keep trouble out.

The gates will be closed between 5.30pm and 8.30am Monday to Saturday and between 4pm and 8.30am on Sundays

When the gates are closed, access between Goodson Street and Parliament Row will be via Old Hall Street.  In case of an emergency the gates can be opened from within Trumpet Passage by a specially designed switch.