Mick Williams Resigns From The Labour Party To Fight For Hartshill & Penkhull

Veteran Labour Party member and activist Mick Williams has resigned from the party in protest at the candidate selection process used for both the parliamentary and local elections.

His resignation ends a 46 year association with the Labour Party. In that time he served as a City Councillor for many years and was awarded the party’s National Merit Award in 2008.

He will now return the award to the Labour Party in protest.

Mr Williams was at the centre of a long running dispute over his status as a Co-op party delegate to the City Labour Party.

Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP nominated him as the chair of the City Party but he was prevented from entering the meeting [allegedly by the Regional Director Ian Reilly] in which the vote was taking place.

As a result Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP refused to attend further meetings until the situation was resolved.

Mr Williams was also very unhappy with the candidate selection process for both the local and general elections and in particular what he perceives to be the imposition of preferred candidate upon the constituencies and branches.

Here is the email in full to Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, which sets out his reasons for his resignation:

Gordon,

Thank you for your email sent earlier today and promising “a different kind of election – one where we the politicians throw open the doors to grassroots activists and the wider public”. Well, forgive me, I’ve heard that so many times before and it never happened – anyway they are not your ‘doors’ to throw open, they belong to the party members.

I joined the Labour Party in 1964 to seek a democratic way of overthrowing a (Tory) Government which had been in power for 13 years and had relentlessly attacked the interests of the working class. I now leave the Labour Party for exactly the same reasons – except that this time the Government concerned (yours – and coincidentally also of 13 years) claim to have improved the lot of the working class. Really ? After reading Wilkinson and Picket’s “The Spirit Level” (which describes how inequality has got considerably worse) and by personal observations of my local area, I think not.

Last Thursday I attended my CLP’s selection meeting to choose a new PPC, following Mark Fisher’s announcement of his standing down. This meeting was presented with a shortlist of three which was so obviously rigged that I was moved to vote against ‘proceeding to ballot’. There had been much local (and some national) publicity regarding the successful candidate and speculation that he had been manipulated into the vacancy by Mandelson. My distrust and hostility to Mandelson dates back to the infamous ‘Sheffield Rally’, where his cocksureness destroyed any chance of a Kinnock victory, and I did have concern for your sanity when I learned that you had brought him back into government.

After the PPC selection came the counting of votes in a postal ballot to choose a council candidate for my ward (Hartshill and Penkhull). This had been actioned by the Regional Office “on the instructions of the Chair of the Organisation Committee, Cath Speight, to re-open the selection”. This followed the decision of my Branch (despite the quorum being augmented by people from other parts of the region) not to proceed to ballot. What should have happened was that there should have been another shortlisting/selection date(s) agreed and the process re-run – but excluding the candidates on the original shortlist. This did not happen, and BLP members were amazed to get a ballot paper with the original two names – after both had been clearly found unacceptable. Whether this was pure bullying or a recognition that they could not continue to impose candidates by a ‘flying selection squad’ I know not. I formally complained to the Regional Office, and they said “duly noted; passed to the compliance unit”. I’ll not hold my breath.

The date 20th September 2008 may not mean much to you, but it was the day that you and Ray Collins signed a certificate on behalf of the NEC “to honour a lifetime’s commitment to the Labour Party”. This was the National Merit Award given to me after I had been nominated by my peers in the local Party. I will be returning it by post since I cannot now believe it was signed with any degree of sincerity.

Perhaps you will understand why I now feel it necessary to assert local democracy by standing myself in the local election – for the first time in my life not as a Labour candidate. I shall put in my nomination papers tomorrow and have until noon next Tuesday to withdraw. Who will blink first ?

This of course means that I shall have to resign from the Labour Party so I would be grateful if you would regard this email as my formal resignation.

I copy this email to the General Secretary (“we are where we are”) and the Chairs and Secretaries (where appropriate) of BLP, CLP and NEC, together with the Secretary of my Co-op Party Branch. I will make verbal announcements at trade union and other relevant places. I will not be bullied, bought or gagged.

In democratic socialism.

Mick Williams.
Membership No. A******.

The official Labour Candidate for Hartshill & Penkhull is yet to be announced.

The sitting Councillors are Cllr Randy Conteh & Cllr Barbara Beeston.

Cabinet Member for Children and Young Peoples Services Ian Mitchell is up for election on 6th May 2010.

Council seeks views on academy location

People who have an interest in the proposed location for the new Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent are being asked for their views as part of a feasibility study being carried out on behalf of the city council.

The proposed Academy is one of five brand new academies planned to be built in the city as part of the £250m Building Schools for the Future programme.

The independent study will look at possible locations for the Discovery Academy and then advise on a preferred site.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:

“We are keen to hear from the public on this very important issue. The Discovery Academy is the last piece of the BSF jigsaw. We want to move this process forward to ensure the young people from Edensor and Mitchell high schools are afforded the same opportunities as other students throughout the city, where outline approval has already been granted for new build or refurbishment.”

Anyone wanting to know more about the feasibility study should visit www.stoke.gov.uk/bsf.

Pupils bookmark staying safe

The winners of a bookmark competition aiming to teach children and young people in the city about staying safe will be presented with their prizes tomorrow (Thursday March 18) at Fenton Manor Sports Centre.

The competition, which was open to all schools in the city, challenged pupils to create a bookmark covering the theme of staying safe; one of the five Every Child Matters outcomes.

The aim was to ensure that all children and young people of school age in Stoke-on-Trent were aware of what ‘staying safe’ meant and where they could go to get further information and advice. Pupils from each of the schools that took part were given a discussion on staying safe, the Safeguarding Children Board and their website prior to entering.

Entries were split up into three age groups of five to seven, seven to 11 and 11 to 16 year olds. The winners for each category are:

* Five to seven year olds: Ella-J Dale of St Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary School
* Seven to 11 year olds: Amy Evans of Grange Primary School
* 11 to 16 year olds: Aaron Harvey of Trentham High School.

Councillor Ian Mitchell, cabinet member for children and young people said:

“It’s vital that all children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent feel safe and know who to contact when they need help and this project has given us the perfect platform to pass on this information.

“We had a fantastic response to the competition with so many entries really capturing the stay safe message we are trying to promote. I would like to send my congratulations to all of the winners and to everyone who took part.”

The winning bookmarks will be produced and given to all pupils in Stoke-on-Trent. Children and young people will receive the winning design for the age group they fall in.

Prizes and certificates will be presented by Ged Rowney, Director for Children and Young Peoples at Fenton Manor Sports Centre between 11.30 am and 11.45 am.

Building Schools for what Future?

This week I attended the Governors’ Finance sub-committee at Mitchell High school, one of the City’s 17 High schools.

Mitchell’s examination results were poor enough to attract over £100,000 additional funding a couple of year’s ago. Last year, Mitchell’s results shot up, so much in fact, that it was the most improved school in the whole of England.

Reward? Slashing of the additional budget to the extent that now the governors have no option but to agree a £95,000 cut in the school budget, and that after the headteacher’s line by line clipping across the board.

Sometimes I really do think there maybe something embedded deeply in some bureaucrats’ heads which rewards success with a swinging penalty. Who, with a modicum of education, not to say commonsense, would even contemplate withdrawing additional booster resources immediately success has been achieved?

Staff who have pulled out all the stops to rise to the challenge are now looking round the staff room and thinking: will it be them or me faced with the question: have you thought of early retirement/voluntary redundancy?

This is not the way to run our schools; this is not the way to treat our children; this is not the way political issues should be handled. The allocation of scarce resources is what politics is all about: we should not stand by and watch bureaucrats undermine the hardwork and aspirations of all involved with our schools.

The City Council’s cabinet member for schools needs to get a grip on the situation to make sure young people in some of the most economically deprived areas of our city are not being penalised.

Graffiti draws in the crowds for youth project

Young people from Moorland Park Youth Centre will be showing off the results of a recent project to highlight alcohol abuse next week.

Walls at the community centre have been decorated with graffiti, painted by youngsters attending workshops, and will be unveiled next week, with the artists signing their names on their creation.

The project was based around highlighting alcohol abuse and raising awareness of the dangers of under age drinking, which is one of the issues in the area. The workshops were organised by Creative Arts North Staffs to develop artistic skills and their own art work for the final design.

Councillor Ian Mitchell, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said:

“This is a really great way for young people to learn about the danger of alcohol abuse and also to create something that will have a lasting legacy.

“It’s important that young people know that there are people there to support them if they are tempted to turn to alcohol, and that there are projects such as this that can give them skills and an outlet for what they learn.”

City council appeals for short break carers

City Council’s Fostering Service have launched a campaign urging people in the city to “be the big difference” by supporting disabled children and their families needing a short break.

Short Breaks are the support service requested by families of disabled children. They are regular opportunities for families to have a break from caring while the child enjoys spending time with a short break carer. They provide opportunities for disabled children to make new friends; develop their independence and enjoy new activities.

A national survey by charity Shared Care Network has identified that the public’s awareness of short breaks is relatively low. Whereas most people would be prepared to foster a child, only few knew of the option to provide a care break for a disabled child and their family.

Councillor Ian Mitchell, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said:

“We currently have short break carers supporting disabled children in Stoke-on-Trent but we still require an additional 5 carers for those families needing a break.

“We are hoping that this campaign results in many more short break carers coming forward to be a big difference in the life of a disabled child and their family.”

Stoke Speaks Out ““ a special day

Organisations which look after young children across Stoke-on-Trent are being invited to take part in a city-wide event on March 17.

Stoke Speaks Out Day is aimed at raising awareness of the help some younger children need with speech and language skills.

Nurseries, schools, childminder groups and children’s centres are all invited to take part, and to run what’s described as a “communication activity” on the 17th, which could be anything from singing nursery rhymes to story telling.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:

“Getting parents involved in helping their children with communication skills is key to their development and this special day is a way of promoting these very important aspects of their early education.”

Last year 27 venues in the city took part in the event.

Meanwhile, 17 childminders have just completed their Stoke Speaks Out Level 1 and 2 training and will be presented with certificates on March 2nd at the Civic Centre.

New Director of Children and Young People’s Services for Stoke-on-Trent

Sharon Menghini has been appointed as the new Director of Children and Young People’s Services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Sharon was appointed after a meeting of the city council’s Human Resources Committee on Thursday 18 February.

She will join the city council from her current role as Director of Children and Young People’s Services at Herefordshire County Council.

Sharon has worked as Director of Children’s Services at Herefordshire Council since April 2007. Her previous roles include Chief Education Officer at Newport City Council.

Sharon will take charge of the directorate after the city council was given the go ahead to bring children’s services back “in house” in 2009, after the contract with Serco expires.

Councillor Derek Capey, Vice Chair of the Committee said: “This was an exceptionally strong field, but it was vital we appoint the right candidate to continue to take the directorate forward, given the fact it will now once again be part of the city council.

“I have every confidence she will be able to bring strong leadership and positive ideas to the role.”

Councillor Ian Mitchell, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Bringing the directorate back in house will take forward the good work the Serco team has done over the last three years.

“Sharon brings a wealth of experience to this challenging role and I look forward to working with her as we move management of the department towards a new era and continue to make improvements which will touch the lives of young people and their families across the city.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ged Rowney and his team for putting into place a robust system on which we can now build.”

Sharon added: “I am really pleased and excited that I am going to be working in Stoke-on-Trent. Serco have given the city a good platform to build on in Children and Young People’s Services and I’m looking forward to continuing that good work.”

Programme launched to help disabled children

A series of free activities – including canoeing and angling -   is being organised for children with disabilities in Stoke-on-Trent.
 
The Aiming High for Disabled Children programme which will be launched later this month has been put developed as a partnership between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and NHS Stoke on  Trent and will run until March 2011.
 
The aim of the activities is to give children enjoyable experiences away from their carer as well as giving carers a break from their responsibilities.
 
Children can take part in a range of activities such as angling, canoeing, film club, dance workshops and much more.
 
The programme can also provide one-to-one carers, overnight stays and access to organisations which provide additional help and support to carers of disabled children. It also aims to increase awareness of the needs of children and young people with disabilities and their families.
 
Sarah Chattaway, Joint Commissioning Manager for the city council’s children and young people’s services said:
 
“These activities provide excellent opportunities for children with disabilities to enjoy new experiences, interact with their peers and discover their independence. Parents and carers are also given valuable ‘me’ time to relax whilst knowing their child is well cared for.”
 
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:
 
“These short breaks are an excellent opportunity for the children and young people to experience a really diverse range of sports and activities. It also means the parents and carers can take a break from caring safe in the knowledge their children are being well looked after.”
 
Andrea Westlake, Programme Manager Children, Young People and  Maternity Services, NHS Stoke on Trent, said:
 
“Aiming High for Disabled Children contributes to the PCT Strategy to reduce health and social inequalities and improve the well being and aspirations of this vulnerable group of children and young people.”
 
Parents of children with disabilities can find out more about the scheme by attending a meet and greet day on Monday 15 February at the Civic Centre’s Windsor Room from 10am-2pm. People involved in providing the activities as well as support services and city council staff will be on hand to answer any questions.
 
For more information about the meet and greet day or about the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme, please call Zoe Booth on 01782 233046.
 

Stoke BSF financial agreement confirmed

Stoke-on-Trent City Council today announced another major step forward in its Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme when senior members of the council, along with representatives of the council’s two selected design and build contractors, Balfour Beatty and Thomas Vale/Wates, signed the “overarching agreement” which confirms both sides’ financial commitment to the project.
 
This will enable detailed work on the first two school projects, Haywood Engineering and Trent Vale, to go ahead.
 
City council leader Councillor Ross Irving paid tribute to the negotiators on both sides. He said:
 
”I would like to thank all those involved in bringing this agreement to its financial close. This project is challenging in many respects and the level of professionalism shown on both sides to make this happen in such a tight timeframe is commendable.”
 
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:
 
“This agreement means our school teams can get down to some definitive an exciting planning for the design and build aspects of their projects.”
 
Today’s “financial close” agreement was also welcomed nationally, by Tim Byles, the Chief Executive of Partnerships for Schools(PfS),   the organisation responsible for delivering the national BSF programme, who said:
 
“I am pleased that Stoke-on-Trent has reached Financial Close as it paves the way for the area’s BSF project.  The scheme is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the life chances of school pupils by providing them with the best possible start.  Stoke-on-Trent’s schools will also become hubs for the local community by providing extended services such as leisure facilities which will benefit people of all ages. 146 BSF schools and over 125,000 pupils are benefiting from BSF investment across the country with 96 local authorities engaged in the programme and I look forward to following Stoke-on-Trent’s project.”
 
This is the latest in a series of key milestones for the Stoke BSF project. Last week the council announced it had received approval for its Outline Business Case, which effectively confirms the government’s agreement to the council’s city-wide schools re-organisation plan.