Campaign To Save The Wedgwood Memorial College

Five charities are starting a campaign to save the Wedgwood Memorial College in Barlaston after their proposal & business plan to run the college as an Independent Educational Trust were turned down by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The five charities

  • Friends of Wedgwood Memorial College
  • Esperanto Association of Britain
  • Arnold Bennett Society
  • Raymond Williams Foundation
  • Workers Education Association (WEA)

produced a business plan to enable Community Asset Transfer (CAT) for the WMC to be run by an Independent Educational Trust, releasing Stoke-on-Trent City Council of its financial commitment and College deficit from 1st April 2012.

On 15th November , the  new Trust was informed that its Plan had been rejected and so the authority’s proposal is to close the College goes ahead. According to the Stoke-on-Trent City Council budget proposals book (4-CR01 on page 32 if you have a copy) Cabinet will be recommended on 15th December 2011 to close WMCC although this is not reflected in the agenda for this weeks cabinet meeting.

Maybe this is just another mistake either in the budget book or the Cabinet agenda.

You can read more about the organisations involved in the campaign using the links below.

Council works with operators to save Stoke-on-Trent bus routes

A total of 17 closure-threatened bus routes have been saved, with the possibility of more to follow, Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced yesterday.

The authority has been in detailed negotiations with bus operators to secure the continuation of the services across the city.

It will mean that a number of early morning, evening and Saturday and Sunday routes ““ that the council had been providing a subsidy for to ensure the services ran ““ will continue.

In February, the council announced it would not be able to continue providing the subsidy after government spending restrictions meant it needed to save £36 million for the new financial year. But since then, the authority has been working closely with bus operators D&G, First, Scraggs and Wardles to ensure disruption to passengers has been kept to a minimum.

“The subsidies were used to help make routes which usually don’t attract lots of passengers viable. However, we appreciate that those services are important to the residents that use them, and we have heard from many people who would be affected by their closure.

“We are working hard to find alternative solutions where the subsidised bus services are due to come to an end. This first phase of negotiations, with the bus companies that run each service, has shown that we can continue to ensure many bus routes are retained, which is excellent news.

“We’ll now go back to the bus companies to see if any are willing to take on the other routes, or are willing to amend existing routes to address the gaps created by the loss of the current bus services. We should know the outcome of this further negotiation in two or three weeks’ time.”

The negotiations mean that a total of 12 routes will continue in total or major part; five will continue in part; and four more are subject to further discussions with bus operators. A further 18 routes will be discussed in more negotiations with the bus operators.

Listed below are the bus route numbers, the destinations, days in operation and whether the routes have been parialy saved or totally saved.

No Route Days Cont
1 Hanley – Dawlish Drive – Longton SUN Part
4 Hanley – Eaton Park M-F Total
4 Hanley – Eaton Park SAT Total
21 Bradeley – Hanley – Trentham SUN Total
21 Bradeley – Hanley – Trentham M-TH Total
24 Hanley – Penkhull – Newcastle SUN + BH Total
24 Hanley – Penkhull – Newcastle SAT Total
26 Longton – Stoke- Newcastle SUN Total
28 Longton – Rowan Village M-F Total
47 Longton – Langland Drive M-S Part
49 Meir – Goms Mill M-S Part
50 Hanley – Rough Close M-S Part
61 Hanley – Norton M-S Total
62/62A Hanley – Milton – Norton – Tunstall M-S Total
76 Middleport – Tunstall – Chell Heath M-S Part
80/81 Hanley – Eaton Park / Abbey Hulton M-S Total
500/ plumlineHanley – Trentham Lakes M-S Total

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

Pre-Council Meeting Demo ““ A Peaceful Protest

A peaceful protest outside the Civic Centre in Stoke yesterday was a far cry from the scenes witnessed in London.

A group of about 60 turned out in support of the Save Our Children’s Centres group who were protesting at the councils proposals to close 7 of the 16 centres which could potentially realise a saving of £750,000 to the Local Authority.

Over 200 hundred staff have already been told whether their posts have been “Ëœsaved’, “Ëœpooled’ or indeed “Ëœdeleted’ should the council choose to proceed with the proposals.

Council chiefs still insist that no final decisions have been made and that a city wide consultation is still on-going. The final outcome will not be known until the council learn the true extent in the cuts in funding handed down from central government following their recent Comprehensive Spending Review.

Roy Naylor, the former City Independent Councillor now Non-Aligned, is fighting the Group’s cause within the civic and was in attendance to lend his support at the protest yesterday [Thursday]. He gave us an Audio Interview which can be heard below this article.

Millissa Beydilli from Blurton is the Leader of the Save Our Children Centres Campaign explained why it is vital that these centres are saved from closure and how they have been a lifeline for so many families across the city’s communities. Listen to the Audio Interview below.
Council Leader Cllr Mohammed Pervez met with the campaigners along with several cabinet members and received a 6,500 strong petition against the closure proposals.

There was also a small group of students protesting outside the Civic. They were expressing their opposition to the rise in tuition fees and against cuts in services generally.

The North Staffs Pensioners Convention were also in attendance protesting against any cuts which will impact upon the elderly.

First Time Opportunity To Consult City Leader On Budget Proposals

A unique opportunity, where local people will get the chance to quiz the leader of the city council on the budget proposals, will take place next week for the first time.

The private appointments will give residents the opportunity to consult city council leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez, on issues raised in the budget proposals. One-on-One meetings will take place on Tuesday November 30 and will form the second phase of the six week consultation.

Additionally there will also be an on-line question and answer session with the leader using “ËœPits “Ëœn’ Pots’ website.

The first phase of their consultation finished at the end of last week (Friday 19 November) where cabinet members took to the streets of the city to answer questions from local people during a “Ëœfeedback fortnight’.

Cabinet members moved around the city visiting Local Centres, markets, shopping centres and other local community facilities as the launch of a six week long consultation period.

The cabinet will also be engaging with the voluntary sector for their views and writing to over 700 people who took part in the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultation in August 2010 to encourage them to take part again.

“We will not know the exact level of savings that we would have to make until the government announces their financial settlement for Stoke-on-Trent around mid December. This would have given us very little time to talk to residents before agreeing on a legal budget in February 2010. Consequently, we have gone out to consultation early based on certain assumptions to allow as many people as possible to take part.

“Once we know the exact amount of cuts that we will have to deliver from government, we will then use the responses from the consultation process to help decide on the best way forward. These are very difficult times and we have some tough decisions to make about future service delivery and it is important that we move forward with as much consensus as possible but I recognise that not everyone will be happy with everything that we will do.”

“We are continuing to encourage feedback from the public, elected members, staff, partners, MPs and businesses in the city.

“The cabinet have visited over 15 different locations in the city during the first two weeks of the consultation. We have spoken to crowds of people in the daytime, afternoons, evening and weekends. Hundreds of people have taken time to fill in our feedback form and post them to us others have used our on-line form and emailed them through our website.

“Any feedback will be considered as part of the budget process I would ask people to take the time and talk to us; we are interested in their views and are here ready to listen.”

To make an appointment with the leader on November 30, please call 01782 232468. Time slots will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Anyone can ask a question or make a suggestion on the proposals by writing to “ËœLet’s Talk, Freepost, Our City (no stamp required) or email letstalk@stoke.gov.uk or text “letstalk” to 07786 200700 with your message or use our on-line form at www.stoke.gov.uk/letstalk.