Group Leaders Interviews RE: Coalition Agreement

Following the news that Stoke-on-Trent is set to be run by a 4-party coalition, we are pleased to bring you some exclusive Audio Interviews with the group leaders concerned.

Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem], Brian Ward [City Independents] and Mike Barnes on behalf of one of the parties likely to be in opposition, the Non-Aligned Group, all give their thoughts on this pioneering move to share the responsibility for the running of the council in what is thought to be one of the most difficult periods in the Councils history.

Listen to the Audio Interviews below…

Parties Unite For The Good Of The City

Following a meeting of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, news of a pioneering four party coalition emerged.

The Labour Party currently have 26 seats and are the biggest group on the council by a considerable margin. They will enter a coalition with the Conservative & Independent Alliance, the City Independent Group, and the Liberal Democrats.

It is clearly a move to negate the impact of an expected public backlash at next years all out council elections in the wake of the expected extensive cuts this year.

It is now expected that Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez will be voted in as the new council leader at the annual council meeting on May 27th.

His Cabinet is likely to include members from all the coalition parties.

Brian Ward, leader of the City Independents, Ross Irving, leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance and Kieran Clarke, leader of the Liberal Democrats are expected to feature.

The move will leave just the 5 members of the BNP group and the 6 non party aligned and Libertarian Councillors as the only opposition to the coalition in the council chamber.

The coalition is expected to be ratified at a Group Leaders meeting on Tuesday evening.

Audio Interviews with the Group Leaders willbe online later.

Wol’s Election Analysis – The BNP’s Bubble Bursts As Labour Rise to The Top

Stoke-on-Trent’s electorate went to the polls on Thursday 6th May to vote in both the local and General Elections.

There had been a lot of hype about the General Election.

The BNP claimed that they were targeting the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central and would surely benefit from the alleged imposition of Labour Party PPC Tristram Hunt and the very public departure of Gary Elsby from the Party he supported for 27 years.

It so did not work out that way. Elsby lost his deposit with a humiliating 399 votes. He must surely be now contemplating life after the Labour Party and giving his wounds a serious licking.

BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby gave his campaign a serious amount of time and effort. His blog site was getting a massive amount of hits and his video diaries told the viewers everything that is wrong with parts of Stoke-on-Trent, but were void of any positive ideas on how to improve the lives of the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Stoke BNP Group Leader Mike Coleman’s campaign never really took off. I kind of get the impression that Mike knew it was going to be an uphill struggle bordering on mission impossible to get the electorate switched on to the BNP message.

Melanie Baddeley was no more than a paper candidate for the British National Party and any minute chance she had was wiped out the moment her husband was arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis. He was later charged with the offence and will appear before magistrates on 14th May.

All three of the BNP PPC’s were effected by the revelation that there was a vein of holocaust deniers in the far right party.

The revelation came from former Stoke BNP Group Leader Alby Walker after he quit the party. He was quickly followed across the council chamber by his wife Ellie.

These actions angered some of the party supporters, but effectively killed any chance the BNP had in returning a BNP MP in this City.

Locally, the BNP lost two of their sitting councillors. They failed to get any of their candidates elected, often finishing in 3rd place or lower. They have the embarrassing record of never successfully defending a council seat in this City.

Nationally the BNP were mauled. The nations electorate turned their backs on the policies of the far right. They lost all of their 12 seats on east London’s Barking and Dagenham Council.

Nick Griffin was pasted in his attempt to get elected as an MP for Barking. He came 3rd with just 6620 votes in a result that saw sitting Labour MP Margaret Hodge double her vote.

There are a number of far right websites that are calling for Griffin to go, they are demanding a change in leadership.

The BNP leadership [Darby & Griffin] polled just over 9000 votes between them which is no where enough to get them elected anywhere in the country.

Their total number of votes across the country amounts to 563,743, which equates to just 1.9% of the total number of votes cast at the election.

The fact that the mainstream parties are now willing to talk about immigration issues may well be the reason that people are turning their backs on the far right.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have tabled policies to deal with the concerns of people who are worried about the impact the number of people who are coming into this country is having on the economy, jobs, housing, and public services.

The Labour Party nationally has been rejected and it would seem that Gordon Brown’s days are numbered.

Locally the Labour Party are resurgent.

They have taken 17 of the 20 available council seats. They have smashed the BNP and critically injured the Independents.

Labour have made a mockery of those who moaned and hit out at the candidate selection process. There were a number of people that left the party in protest. Is the Labour Party vindicated now?

Two candidates Mick Williams locally and Gary Elsby nationally, stood against their party and were unanimously rejected at the ballot box.

Stoke Central CLP needs to re-group and re-build and elected new officers who will take the constituency forward and ensure it becomes progressive. There may be a way back into the party for some it would seem. Tristram Hunt MP is committed to uniting the party and bringing ex members back to the fold. Somehow I can’t see that happening in Gary Elsby and Mick Williams’s case.

Our own Nicky Davis urged people to reject Labour at the ballot box, She wrote:

Mark Meredith’s Labour, continuing after he was kicked out, do not deserve to win an election in the city. They will do the city no good, their track record says it all.

And:

The council’s Labour group screw over communities then just before an election pathetically say they have not listened enough but will now. No ““ LABOUR CAN NOT BE TRUSTED!

Well, It seems our Nicky got it wrong. This election saw the voters turn to mainstream parties and reject the Independents that Nicky favours so much. She has hailed the work of some of the BNP councillors and yet the electorate has shown them the door.

As one prominent Party politician put it: ‘Is there any such thing as an Independent?’

But, the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent need to to tread very carefully now. They need to understand that they have been given an opportunity by the electorate. If they get it wrong this time it could well lead to another rise in the BNP’s popularity.

Why? – simple, the Labour Party started to go down hill faster than Franz Klammer when they formed a three party coalition with the Conservatives and the Lib Dem’s. This robbed our City of the individual party voices. We were robbed of the inter-party debates. The electorate were unhappy that they had voted Labour and got Conservatives and visa versa.

Yes, there is a need for all the parties to work together for the good of the City but the different parties MUST retain their individual party voices. Nothing else is acceptable.

The Labour Party hold 26 seats in the chamber, just 5 short of the 31 they need for an outright majority. If they were to form an alliance with the 4 ex Labour members, PKB, Mick Salih, Mike Barnes & Pauline Joynson, they would be just 1 short of the required majority.

Would the Party turn towards Ellie Walker, or maybe Gavin Webb? The City Independents are known to have a growing number of members who are discontented with the direction of the Groups Leadership. Could Dave Conway be enticed back?

There will be interesting times ahead of the Annual Council meeting on May 27th.

I am proud of the coverage that PnP have given both the General and Local Elections. All the 500 word articles went on unedited. Video and Audio interviews went on untampered with.

Every candidate and Party got equal treatment, including the BNP. That is the way this site will continue. We want to work with all parties to get their message out but we will continue to scrutinise every council decision and will never shy away from reporting what is going on, no matter how uncomfortable that makes certain individuals.

We wish every success to those candidates who were successful and commiserations to those who were not.

A politician text me yesterday [Friday] and congratulated me on our coverage. He said that we had helped some people to make up their minds which way to vote and that we provide an essential service to the politically interested in our City.

If that’s the case I’m more proud of that that anything else…..

Charging for Disabled Blue Badge Holders on Council Multi-storey Car Parks.

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Adrian Knapper

Adrian Knapper

The Conservative/Independents who run Stoke-on-Trent City Council want to introduce free parking on council car-parks on Sundays, which everyone agrees is a sensible move to stimulate trade during the current economic climate.

However, in order to finance this proposal the local authority plans to introduce a cost/fee for disabled person who hold blue badges to use City Centre multi-storey car-parks.

Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor Adrian Knapper say’s “This demonstrates the policy of the Tory/Indie administration to penalise those less fortunate in our society.”

A report that was presented to the cabinet outlines that the City Council has consulted with disabled organisations over the introduction of car-parking fee’s at the John Street and Meigh Street multi-storey car-parks but fails to recognise that it will not notify disabled users of these car-parking facilities until after the fees have been introduced.

Councillor Knapper say’s “In this case the City Council could have easily consulted direct with the disabled user, since under the current process to exit these car-parks a manual attendant has to lift the exit barriers.”

“The sensible approach would have been to have used this opportunity to gain the views of blue badge holders upon exit.”

Again this demonstrate the lack of understanding of the Conservative/Independents who early this year removed disabled car-parking spaces from Town Road by only consulting with disabled organisations rather than with those disabled people who used that  facility to park in the centre of the town near by the shops for easy access.

The sensible approach would be for the current Conservative/Independent administration to be more concerned to protect the rights of those whose mobility are restricted and introduce a review of policy around disabled car-parking facilities within the City Centre.

Recommendation to reduce the number of councillors in Stoke-on-Trent

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

2010 Elections

2010 Elections

Councillors in Stoke-on-Trent are to be asked to support a recommendation to reduce their numbers.

A report to a special meeting of the full council on 8 September will suggest cutting the number of councillors from the current figure of 60 to between 52 and 56.

Councillors have today (Wednesday) been informed about the proposals, which will be published on Friday 28 August as an agenda paper for the special council meeting.

A reduction in the number of councillors was one of the recommendations of the Governance Commission, set up by the Secretary of State and launched by the then Local Government Minister John Healey in October 2007. The Commission made 14 recommendations to improve the political system in the city.

The Governance Commission’s 14 recommendations were accepted by the city council in July 2008. One of those was to implement a smaller council. This requires an electoral review by the Boundary Committee

The Boundary Committee is now consulting with the residents of the city, local organisations, stakeholders and councillors regarding the number of councillors within the city. The report is the city council’s proposed response to that consultation.

The proposals for a reduction have been made after taking a number of factors into account. They included:

“¢Ã‚ The roles and responsibilities of councillors
“¢Ã‚ Their workloads
“¢Ã‚ The ratio of electorate to councillor
“¢Ã‚ How they represent their community

Council Leader - Ross Irving

Council Leader - Ross Irving

The city council is currently made up of 60 councillors across 20 wards, divided equally with three in each ward.

Ross Irving, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader, said: “This is just the first step on a long road towards improving our representation to residents and making sure that the issues that matter to them are dealt with rapidly and properly.

“It is important that people see change happening, and that change is for the better. Adopting the

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

recommendations will be key to ensuring an improved system of governance for Stoke-on-Trent.”

Councillor Mike Barnes, Leader of the Stoke-on-Trent Labour Group and Shadow Cabinet, said: “It’s vital that the people of Stoke-on-Trent get a council that runs the city efficiently and effectively.

“We have to take the opportunity to make the recommendations work, and to ensure that everyone living and working in the city is represented in the council chamber in the best way possible.”

BREAKING NEWS: Conway joins the Indies!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Dave Conway

Dave Conway

Councillor Dave Conway is to join the City Independent Group just  a week after leaving the Labour Group.

This surprise move comes less than a week after Cllr Ross Irving defeated CIG leader Brian Ward in the Council Leader election.

Labour Group Leader Mike Barnes said today: ” I am very surprised to hear the news that Dave Conway has decided to join the City Independent Group.

“It is not more than a few weeks ago that he announced is intention to stand for the leadership of the Labour Group”

“He then became disillusioned with the direction the Labour Group were taking and decided to leave”

“Given all he has said about the City Independents, the news that he is to join them seems very strange”

Negotiations are on going for the new Council Leader, the Labour Groups decision to go into opposition has meant that cabinet will be made up of a mixture of Conservative and Independent Alliance members, City Independents and the odd Libdem.

It is widely expected that City Independent Group Leader Brian Ward will be named as Deputy Council Leader. It remains unclear which councillors will be chosen to head up the key portfolios of Regeneration, Children and Young Peoples Services and Adult Services.

Kieran Clarke is tipped to carry on as Portfolio Holder for Resources.

There are still rumours that the Labour Group remains fragmented and sources have said that another councillor is about to jump ship.

Ross wins the day! – The Silver fox deserves the credit!

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Comment Article By Tony Walley.

It is the dawn of brand new day in the life of Stoke on Trent Politics, is it not?

Today, in our council chamber we witnessed something that many people would have never envisaged in their lifetime, the day a Conservative took charge of Stoke on Trent City council.

I was present in the chamber for the whole of the meeting, which started with glowing tributes to the out-going Lord Mayor Derek Capey. I also witnessed the swearing in of the new Lord Mayor Cllr Jean Bowers.

Councillors from all sides of the house poured glowing praise on Derek Capey and labelled him one of the most successful and hardworking Lord Mayor’s in the history of our city.

New Lord Mayor Jean Bowers gave a lovely, sincere and often emotional acceptance speech in which it was made clear just what the office of 1st citizen means to our elected representatives. It also gave me a sense of pride and tradition in watching the ceremonial service and gift giving that is a quintessential part of our history.

The only downer on this part of the morning was the abysmal abstentions from the 8 BNP members when it came to the vote for the Lord Mayor and again the vote on the Deputy Lord Mayor. How can this extreme party of mis-fits ever hope to be accepted by the rest of our city’s politicians when they can not show the slightest respect for one our finest traditions?

On to the vote for leader, there was a brief discussion on the system to be used for the vote and also a request for the leaders to give a 5 minute ‘presentation’ on the aims and visions for the future of our city. This was somewhat disappointingly rejected.

I Twittered updates from the meeting in true Big Brother Style, you know, ‘the votes are in, counted and verified and I can now reveal the name of the first person to be eliminated from the contest is….[dramatic pause!] Peter Kent-Baguley!

Next to fall by the wayside was BNP Group leader Alby Walker who did not attract a single vote more than his own, and the 7 members of his group present. After his elimination the BNP really did show their true colours, yes folks, they all stood up in unison and defiantly walked out of the council chamber.  It might have been a defiant gesture on their behalf but the reality is it showed the futility, spiteful and childish attitude they display when things don’t go their way.

It also shows scant regard and a complete lack of respect to those people of Abbey Hulton, Bucknall, Bentilee and Meir who elected these councillors to represent their interests. Once again the BNP showed why they are not fit to represent the working folk of this great city.  They should have stayed in the chamber and gave an opinion on who was the best leader for the folk they represent.

No vision, no respect, no integrity, no opinion, no policies, no qualities, no morals =NO CHANCE, That’s the BNP!

Next was the elimination of Mike Barnes, what a week for the new Labour Group Leader, 3 resignations who obviously did not vote for him.  Along with others who also did not cast their vote in Mikes direction. It was obvious that from round one it was going to be an uphill struggle for him to win the contest.  With Barnesy out of the running, the Labour Group transferred their vote to Ross Irving.  This decision might surprise some people but as Mike Barnes said in his speech after the vote that they saw it as a vote between two Tories [Irving & Ward] and they chose the one that they thought could do the better job and was more positive.  As for the three Labour Councillors who have resigned, how do they know that the people of their wards want to be represented by Independents? They have left the Labour Group, so should they not now go to the polls and give their wards the opportunity of having a say on whether they are wanted or not?

That left a two horse race between Irving of the Tories and Ward of the Indies and with the Labour group now backing Irving, Ward needed the votes of the BNP and as they had chosen to show their ignorance by walking out he could not amass the support he required.

Let me pay tribute to the man affectionately known as the ‘Silver Fox’. He rejected out of hand a deal offered beforehand by Alby Walker who offered BNP votes for cabinet places! He could have sold out to the politics of the far right but he did not! He showed integrity and consideration of others before his own ambitions! If he had sold out his principles we would be writing a very different article on the outcome.

Ross may have won the contest but, Brian Ward won the day in my humble opinion. All those Labour activists, in their meeting of Monday night, who called Brian a racist and someone who would do deals with the BNP [you know who you are!] should feel very ashamed of themselves tonight. I wonder if they feel guilty now for suggesting that Brian lent very much to the far right.  I hope they now understand this: if he did he would now be the Leader of the Council.

I am really pleased for Ross Irving. He has undoubted ability and a lifetime of experienced. He is very fair in his dealings with officers, councillors and press alike. He will endeavour to unite the chamber and to deliver the policies such as regeneration and BSF. He knows that he faces a battle to win over the people of Trentham and Hanford but I’m sure that they realise that he is not a vindictive person and whilst he has concerns over future pupil numbers for Trentham High he has said in public that he will offer any support to the school that he can.

Ross has until 2011 to make a difference to our city. He will face many trials and tribulations along the way.  He will have to overcome opposition to some policies. He will have to allay the suspicion over ‘common purpose’ and other worries over the NSRP. But one thing is for sure, what ever Ross has to face he will do so with a calm exterior and he will always speak in an articulate way.

Yes, this is the dawn of a new era in our city’s politics, whether it will be a success is down to everyone and not just Ross Irving, his cabinet and the chief executive.

It is about drawing a line under the past and uniting for the common good of our city.

It’s about delivering comprehensive regeneration and giving our children the best educational establishments.

It’s about attracting business’s in  to our city and providing jobs for our city’s workforce.

It’s about celebrating the cultural diversity, the different faiths present in our city and respecting other people,of all ages, sexes and sexuality.

It’s about wining over the hearts and minds of everyone and providing a safe, vibrant society with great entertainment, leisure and sporting facilities.

Ross Irving will do all he can to deliver what the city needs, but he can’t do it on his own he needs our help along the way.

After all, it’s up to us all to pitch in and not just stand on the sides criticising. We have got the system we have voted for so onwards and upwards……

Cameron says become an MP – Esther says ‘yes’ an independent one!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

David Cameron

David Cameron

Some voters could be forgiven for thinking that David Cameron is sinking to new depths to win over new voters and forcing the Prime Ministers hand in repeatedly calling for an immediate General Election.

Cameron has issued an invitation for people who have “never previously thought” of becoming MPs to contest the next general election as candidates for the Conservative Party.

The Conservative leader wants to attract successful people to “widen the net” of potential MPs and reform Parliament in the wake of the expenses scandal. He said he would welcome well known figures such as Joanna Lumley, the actress who has championed the cause of the Gurkhas, as Tory MPs.

In an article for yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron urges people to “seize the moment” and turn the current political crisis into an opportunity. The Conservatives are to reopen their approved list of candidates for the next general election in the hope that a diverse range of people will come forward.

His upbeat tone stands in contrast to comments from many Labour MPs who are largely pessimistic over the impact of the Telegraph’s disclosures concerning expenses claims.

Mr Cameron said: “It’s been a terrible few weeks for politics. The stories revealed by the Telegraph of MPs abusing their expenses has shaken Parliament, and our whole political process to the core.

“This crisis can be turned into an opportunity: 2009 doesn’t have to be remembered as the year the British political system was brought to its knees.

“If we seize the moment we can make it the year of reform ““ reform that we reaped the rewards from for many years to come.”

Although the Telegraph has named more Labour MPs that Tory, the parties occupying no 1 and no 2 in the popularity charts are trying every trick in the book to lay the blame at each others door.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are sitting in a pretty good place at the moment as their MPs have shown that they have, for the most part, played well within the rules.

The expenses fiasco has encouraged the country to follow the example of Stoke on Trent with the news that TV

Esther Rantzen

Esther Rantzen

presenter Esther Rantzen took took centre stage at the European election launch of a new umbrella group for independent candidates.

Ms Rantzen told the Jury Team event she was considering challenging Labour’s Margaret Moran at the next general election on an anti-sleaze ticket.

The Jury Team is backing 59 Independent candidates at next month’s euro poll.

The candidates, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, have their own individual policy platforms and were chosen by text and e-mail votes on the Jury Team website.

The Jury Team says it aims to challenge what it sees as the “corrupt” and “arrogant” party system that dominates British politics.

A spokesman said Ms Rantzen backed its aim of electing more independent candidates at Westminster, Strasbourg and in local councils.

Independent MP Richard Taylor, who was first elected in 2001 as part of a campaign to save the hospital where he worked as a consultant, also backed the Jury Team initiative.

Phillip Oppenheim, former Conservative MP and treasury minister has said he will stand as a Jury Team candidate at the next general election if MPs who broke the rules on expenses were not de-selected.

He said: “I think there is now a role for independent candidates for whom politics is a vocation rather than a career and who have experience outside of the incestuous world of politics.”

The Jury Team was founded by millionaire former Conservative donor Sir Paul Judge, who told the party’s campaign launch: “When you vote for the Jury Team you are voting for real change and not the staged and cosmetic change other parties offer.”

He said the Jury Team candidates had “legally committed themselves to our three guiding principles of democracy, accountability and transparency and to abiding by the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life”.

And they had all “pledged to vote on conscience for the good of their constituents and the country and will not be required to obey a party whip”.

Jury Team candidate policies cover the full range of political opinion, from pro-European to Eurosceptic, and those promoting single issues such civil liberties, better protection for the environment and combating crime and anti-social behaviour.

Visit the Jury Website: http://www.juryteam.org/

Now, Stoke has often been described as ‘backward thinking’ and ‘politically fragmented’ but here is a thought – maybe the rest of the country are coming to the same political cross roads that Stoke faced some 10 years ago where the electorate just turned away from mainstream politics.

People in this city have turned to Independent councillors in one guise or another. More than a third of the councillors elected to serve on Stoke on Trent city councillors are Independent of the the recognised political parties.

Is the rest of the country on the brink of becoming ‘politically fragmented’ ? Will the country’s voting public turn to Independent candidates like those standing under the Jury Team umbrella? How will the government sort this one out, they can hardly send in a team of officers to Intervene in themselves….. can they?

Source: BBC/Mail.

Barnes officially enters the race!

By Pits’n’Pots Repoter.

Pits’n’Pots can exclusively reveal that newly elected Labour Group Leader Mike Barnes has filled in his nominations papers and entered the race to become the new Council Leader.

Barnes came through a closely fought contest to become the Labour Group Leader. The vote came down to a choice between Barnes and Paul Shotton.

Joy Garner had decided to withdraw from the contest due to health reasons and Mark Davis decided to step down from his position of Deputy Group Leader for family reasons. Adrian Knapper is the group’s new deputy leader.

Mike Barnes will face opposition from City Independent Leader Brian Ward and BNP Leader Alby Walker.

Brian Ward has already set out his vision for the city in an exclusive interview with Tony Walley and you can hear this by clicking here.

Mike Barnes has also provided his vision and ideas on a whole range of issues again in an exclusive interview with Tony Walley and you can hear this by clicking here.

Alby Walker has so far refused the offer of an interview with this site and as such has denied the electorate the opportunity of understanding how the city would be administered under a BNP leader.

It is also expected that the Conservative and Independent Alliance Group Leader Ross Irving will enter the contest to become the new Council Leader and as soon as this is confirmed we will bring you another in depth interview.

Mike Barnes - Council Leader?

Mike Barnes - Council Leader?

Brian Ward - Council Leader?

Brian Ward - Council Leader?

Alby Walker - Council Leader?

Alby Walker - Council Leader?

Will it be Mike? Will it be Brian Will it be Alby?

The Silver Fox has the Indies Nomination!

By Tony Walley.

Brian Ward

Brian Ward

Pits’n’Pots can tonight exclusively reveal that the City Independent Group have voted unanimously for Brian Ward to be their Council Leader candidate.

AT the group AGM tonight Brian received 10 votes  out of the 14 councillors in attendance.

The other Independent candidate Ann James received 4 votes.

Brian will become the group leader with immediate effect.

Cllr Terry Follows will become the City Independent Group’s Deputy Leader.

We will bring you a comprehensive audio interview with Brian on Wednesday when he will share his vision for our city should he become the Council Leader.

Alan Rigby decided not to stand.