500 words from Gary Elsby Independent candidate for Springfields & Trent Vale

I have lived and worked the whole of my life in Stoke-on-Trent and hopefully, this gives me some knowledge and understanding of what is either right or wrong with the City. It is here, I choose to live, work, raise a family, run a business, serve 20 years as a school governor and pay my taxes.

Like every candidate in any election, I hope to win and serve to the best of my ability. What is certain is that I am a man of my word and when I say I will speak out, nothing will stop me. Continue reading

500 words from Mubsira Aumir Labour candidate for Springfields & Trent Vale

Mubsira AumirIt is a privilege to be selected as Labour’s candidate for Springfields and Trent Vale ward for the City Council by-election on Thursday 26th July.

If I am elected, I will stand up for the local community and be their strong local voice in the Council Chamber. The things that are a nuisance to residents are important issues to me, whether they are the cracked paving stones on Kensington Road, or the potholes on Collin Road. I firmly believe in starting as I mean to go on. The Labour campaign team and I are on people’s doorsteps listening to residents’ concerns and tackling their problems. Continue reading

15 November set for Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

Election of a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will take place on November 15, 2012 with Stoke-on-Trent acting as the lead authority and being responsible for administering the election across the police force area.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Paul Hackney has been appointed as Police Area Returning Officer (PARO) designate. Continue reading

500 words from Ross Ward

Firstly may I add my thanks to Pits n Pots for affording me this opportunity to talk about why I would like the chance to represent my ward of Meir Hay.

I would like to start out by pointing out that I am not a politician. I am a member of the Conservative party, but I am not a politician. I work full time, come from a traditional working class background, I live with my partner I am a proud father of three children. The point I am making is that I have a centre right leaning in my politics but I am not standing for the sake of politics, I am standing because I care about my community and the future it offers for my family and the people we share this City with.

I am not here to bat blame and accusations back and forward ad infinitum as this resolves nothing. We all know the arguments, we all know where we stand and it is unlikely that my 500 words will alter this.

I stood for the first time in the 2010 local elections so I am a relative newcomer. I won’t pretend to know the inner machinations of the Civic Centre or Local Government but I do understand the economics of running a business and maximising the limited resources available through difficult times.

I believe that a large part of the problems we face are derived from our former success. The “ËœPotteries’ were world leaders in much of what we produced and the local politics were on the whole unchallenged; this lead to complacency in local industry and in those who represented us. The world is an ever changing place but we rested on our laurels and let the competition pass us by.

More than ever this City now needs proactive, forward thinkers to help us regain our competitive edge. We need to be ahead of the game and have competent, enthusiastic, driven councillors who can find, bid and win investment back into Stoke on Trent whilst spending our very limited resources wisely. It’s time to balance the books.

At ward level I will continue the fight against EMR’s dreadful treatment of their Parkhall and Meir Hay neighbours and the council’s apparent support for a development that is blighting people’s lives. The development is welcome but not at all costs. Residents should be allowed to sit in their homes and gardens without ceaseless noise, dust, vibration, 24 hour high level floodlights and intrusive cameras looking over them. I will work to broker a compromise that will be agreeable to all.

I will work with my local community groups and associations to ensure their voice is heard in the council chamber. I will support the residents of Meir Hay and Adderley Green who feel they are constantly overlooked in their attempts to get some local investment (play areas, highway repair, council house maintenance) into their community. I will support their vigilance in preventing the Springfield site from inappropriate development. I don’t believe in NIMBYism but I do believe in common sense.

I am a great believer in accountability and responsibility for your actions but at the Civic Centre I see little evidence of either. I hate to see waste and bad management but I read about it across the City everyday. With your vote I will work hard to represent you and will tirelessly work for a fair deal for our ward and our City.

Stoke-on-Trent’s S.O.C.C Angry at Labour Leaflet Claims

Leading members of Stoke-on-Trent’s celebrated “ËœSave Our Children’s Centres’ [S.O.C.C] campaign have voiced their anger over claims made by the Labour Party in a local election campaign leaflet.

SOCC member Alan Lear is so incensed by the leaflet that was pushed through his door by the Labour Party he has called for the group to re-energise it’s self and to fight the proposed 30% budget cuts which will equate to a reduction in funding of £2.25million.

Mr Lear has revealed that the Children Centre’s, which were the flagship of the last Labour Government, are currently reviewing the services that they provide in a bid to cope with the impact of a funding reduction.

He has contacted Pits n Pots and has submitted a statement in which he reveals that he emailed every City Councillor to ascertain their intentions should a vote be taken on the closure of the seven children’s centres across the city.

Only 26 of the 60 councillors replied and 19 of the 26 Labour Group councillors did not respond.

The proposal to close the children centres was removed from the Budget after an incredibly professional presentation to full council by SOCC leader Millissa Beydilli which received cross chamber support.

The saving of the Children’s Centres has appeared on several political groups’ campaign literature in the run up to the local council elections, but SOCC are angry with the omission of the £2.25million cut in funding from any leaflets. Alan Lear says that this is misleading voters.

Mr Lear is concerned that the cut in funding will lead to a reduction of the courses and services on offer to parents and children.

He is also worried that crèche facilities will be under threat which will mean that parents are not able to access vital courses and help groups’.

His full statement is as follows:

I have contacted Pits n Pots with regard to the claims being made by prospective labour councillors in their election campaign material regarding their part in saving our children’s centres and to put the facts before the voters of Stoke-on-Trent. It surprises me because it was Debra Gratton ““ Labour who actually proposed the cuts, and then at a subsequent meeting at Tunstall Children’s Centre she told the audience that she would vote “NO”

On the 23rd November 2010, on behalf of the Save Our Children’s Centre campaign I sent an email to every councillor asking them how they would vote if the council did intend to close 7 of our children’s centres. I only received 26 replies, the majority of whom said that they would vote NO to any centre closure. You must also remember that this was before the Council became aware of the huge impact that the threat of closures would have across this city, which resulted in thousands of people petitioning against any closures..

Could I say through your website a huge thank you to the following Councillors who said NO to the cuts right at the start of our campaign.

Councillors Mick Salih, Mike Barnes, Janine Bridges, Pauline Joynson, Peter Kent-Baguley and Ellie Walker of the Community Voice party. Councillors Tom Reynolds, Tony Fradley, Debra Gratton, Javid Najmi and Ruth Rosenau of the Labour party. Councillors Mick Bell, Rita Dale, John Davis and Terence Follows of the City Independents. Councillors Zulfiqar Ali and Jean Bowers of the Liberal Democrats party. Councillors Steven Batkin and Michael Coleman of the British National Party. Councillors Roy Naylor and Alan Rigby who are Non aligned and Councillor Megan Ryan of the Conservative and Independent Alliance.

I did not receive replies from 19 Labour councillors, 3 BNP councillors, 4 City Independents councillors, 5 Conservative and Independent Alliance councillors, 2 Lib Dem councillors and 1 Libertarian councillor.
In my opinion these 34 people failed in their duty as a councillor. They did not meet their obligations to be accountable to the electorate of their ward and the electorate of this city. They failed to deal with constituent’s enquiries and representations from interested parties and therefore did not represent ward interests. In addition they did not address the community concerns and failed to meet their obligation to improve the quality of life in Stoke-on-Trent as a whole. Now ask yourself -Do they deserve your vote?

We know that the Save Our Children’s Centres campaign, its petition and subsequent presentation by Millissa Beydilli to the full council and the debate that followed and various presentations by some of the above councillors in all probability stopped the closures. Our members know and expected some minor cuts to be made through savings etc. Other Local Authorities in the West Midlands have announced an average cut of 6% to budgets. However, our Labour led Council has just imposed a 30% cut to our Children’s Centre budgets which equates to £2.25 millions. As this is a significant change, the law requires the council to once again enter into wasteful formal consultations regarding that decision. This is because the council has a legal duty under the Childcare Act 2006 to ensure that “it continues to meet the duty to secure sufficient children’s centres services which are effective, efficient and meet local needs and improve the life chances for children and families. As it stands at the moment, without these cuts, our council is failing to meet its targets. Here are some facts to consider regarding our area.

Stoke-on-Trent is the 16th most deprived Local Authority out of a total of 354. Over 26% of children live in totally workless households and 29% of children live in poverty. Infant mortality rates are higher than the national average. Children leaving school who are not in education, employment or training is higher than other local Authorities. Children entering school with significant communication delay is high compared to the rest of the country. These facts show that the Council is failing to meet its own priorities set out in its Children and Young People’s Plan. What would their performance be like after making these cuts?

Our council seems determined to fly in the face of research and published reviews. They seem incapable of accepting the findings of independent reviews and reports such as Early Intervention: The next Steps by Graham Allen, M.P..The Foundation Years ““ Preventing poor children becoming poor adults by Frank Field, M.P. and the Marmot Review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives by Michael Marmot.

Norton and Ball Green Children’s Centres have recently achieved the Parent Charter award for their ability to listen and respond to the views of local parents and then offer services and facilities that benefit the community. The charter aims to highlight good practice for working with parents. It also encourages organisations to look at the needs of parents when reviewing or developing services. Sharon Menghini, Director of children and young people’s services is reported to have said: “This award is excellent recognition for both Norton and Ball Green children’s centres, and I’d like to thank staff for their hard work. It’s really important for us to hear what the local community thinks of our services and very reassuring to hear from the families and volunteers that the staff are getting it right for them.” I would just like to remind the Director that this is being achieved by the people at the sharp end. If they are not there what chance do the parents and children have?

Children’s Centres are needed or they would not be there. The invaluable services that they provide are needed or they would not be offered. It is not just children’s services but those that are provided to ethnic minorities, those with mental health problems, those who are unemployed, those with health issues, those with educational aspirations and the list goes on. At SOCC it has often been said that Children’s Centre is a misnomer and that they should actually be called Family Centre. The dedicated staff who go about their roles with such professionalism and dedication are needed. I believe, without exception, that to them every child does matter. I don’t think it can be said of this Labour controlled Council who seem to purposely set out to damage the life chances of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society, and then waste thousands of pounds on unnecessary consultation. As for the SOCC campaign, it’s alive and kicking. We do ask the families and the people of Stoke-on-Trent to support us once again to fight these punitive and unfair cuts.

Alan Lear

The Labour Group rejects the accusation that their leaflets are misleading and disingenuous.

Council and Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez said that the leaflets claim the Labour led coalition had saved all children’s centres from closure and that was a fact.

He also said that there is to be a consultation period for all interested parties and stakeholders and that he is very willingly to sit around a table and hold discussions so that the most important services are retained for the most vulnerable users of the centres.

Pervez also confirmed that the £2.25million was not set in stone and he also said that the council was open to suggestions that may arise from discussions with S.O.C.C.

This view was also supported by Cllr Debra Gratton the cabinet member with responsibility for children and young people’s services.

[AUDIO INTERVIEWS BELOW]

500 Words from Sarah Hill

Some people have said I must be crazy to stand for the council at a time when we are facing four years of financial cuts from the ConDem coalition government.

My only excuse is that I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. There’s a huge and many faceted job to do and I very much want to be part of it.

For a start there’s Stoke Labour Party itself. There was a time when, as they say, they weighed the Labour vote. That time has long gone. The blunt truth is that our party lost the trust of the people it sought to serve through an arrogant failure to listen. The voters’ revenge came, as we know, in the loss of many seats and a period of serious political instability.

Obviously I hope that Labour has a clear majority in May but whatever the political complexion of the new administration there are major challenges to be faced:

* Managing with fewer resources now and over the next few years

* Getting clarity about what sort of council we want to be ““ how big a provider of services do want to be? ““ how do we better involve the voluntary sector? ““ how do we help people engage in the process more?

As a city we lack confidence and we lack pride. Closed shops, derelict buildings, brownfield sites ““ we all know how dispiriting this is. We also know how great it is when you come out of Stoke station and see the new 6th Form College and new university buildings going up.

To attract the investment that creates jobs we must continue to make the city more attractive. Our 3 Labour MPs are working hard for this and a strong Labour council would work with them on this.

As I said at the start I’ve always liked a challenge and looking back over my life in Stoke I can see that I’ve always worked outside my comfort zone. After graduating from Keele I worked as a social worker in the City, dealing with a bewildering array of social and human problems. I saw the distress it could cause and sometimes the sheer heroism which people could show in the most dreadful circumstances. Eventually I became an assistant director of social services, which taught me – from the inside – how local government worked and how relationships between officers and councillors could be meaningful and productive. I was always clear that my role as an officer was to advise and I came to value those councillors who were happy to see me as someone who was there to help rather than hinder their decision making.

When I moved on to be principal lecturer in social work at Staffs University I thought it might be my last job. How wrong I was. Election to the council last May and my subsequent appointment to the cabinet showed me what I really wanted to do. I decided to leave my job so I could concentrate all my efforts on my council role.

These next four years are going to be very hard for us.It’s a huge job and I feel that I’ve got the skills, passion and enthusiasm to help the City move on to much better things.

Police Investigate Alleged Breach of Representation of the People’s Act in Stoke South

Staffordshire Police are investigating an alleged breach of section 114 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 involving a Labour Party candidate in a ward in the South of the city.

The allegation involves providing refreshments to members of the public who attended a community event where the Labour Candidate was introduced and addressed the meeting.

The event was also attended by a number of other Labour candidates and a Member of Parliament.

Section 114 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 clearly states that providing food, drink or entertainment could be classed as Treating.

Section 114 of the RPA 1983 says

Treating: A person is guilty of treating if either before, during or after an election or referendum they directly or indirectly give or provide (or pay wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing) any food, drink, entertainment or provision in order to influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting.
Corrupt practice, Section 114, RPA 1983

Staffordshire Police have confirmed that they are currently investigating the matter.

A Statement released by Staffordshire Police says

An allegation has been made with regard to a breach of section 114 of the RPA and the circumstances are currently being investigated.

The Labour Party confirmed that they are aware of the allegation but has strongly denied any wrong doing.

A Spokesman for the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent said

We can happily confirm that there was an event that took place on the 27th March and that those who attended did indeed receive a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is perfectly reasonable and a common courtesy. The cost of the event will, of course, be included in the election expenses.

A number of people in the ward concerned and surrounding areas are said to be furious that the candidate concerned has been named, along with another allegation that other Labour candidates and a MP are also under investigation, on a rival political group’s website.

The website claims

4 Labour candidates and a Labour MP from the Labour Party ,its has now been confirmed, are involved in police investigation into an allegation that a Labour Candidate breached the Representation of the People’s Act 1983, Section 114, in attempting to gain votes through iterating potential voters, a criminal offence subject up to £5000 fine or six months imprisonment.

The website has also published the name of a candidate that it says is under police investigation.

Staffordshire Police have confirmed to Pits n Pots this morning [Tuesday] that they have not, or have any intention of, confirming the name or the number of individuals connected with this inquiry or whether charges will follow.

A Labour Party Spokesperson in the South of the City said

This is typical of some of the gutter tactics that certain individuals and groups stoop to around election time.

I have no problem with the investigation but the naming of individuals before any guilt is proved is nothing but dirty tricks.

Comments are closed on this article as the matter is under Police investigation that may, or may not, result in charges.

500 Words From Brian Ward

Why should anyone vote for us as councillors and why should you read my 500 words?

Criticism and negative press constantly points out how the council gets everything wrong.
When I stood for council eight years ago I wanted to get elected because I thought exactly the same as many others, and that you would be hard pushed to do any worse. I believed the constant voting in of the same old Labour people, time and time again had made them complacent.

There seemed to be no vision for the city and no urgency in replacing the lost jobs and businesses.

There seemed to be no interest in banging on the governments door for funding to bring inward investment to our city, even though we had three Labour MPs.

I was elected twice in 2003 & 2007 and hope to be re-elected again in 2011 even though the Governance Commission and Boundary Commission have, in my opinion, tried their best to eliminate all but Mainstream parties by going against their own guidelines and dividing established communities and ignoring natural boundaries. We can only hope that it doesn’t decrease people’s choice in this election.

When I was newly elected, I was constantly frustrated at the time it took to get anything done.

This was something I was not used to in my past life when running my own businesses.
I learned how to use the council system to my best advantage, to achieve the best possible.
I have been able to get lots of benefits for my local area of Blurton with new jobs, new shops, new housing, Parking bays and numerous other things to improve the Blurton area.

I have highlighted problem issues and fought for what I believed to be right,

not only for my area, but our city. I have highlighted them on Pits n Pots and have been quoted in the Sentinel now fewer than 368 times in the last two and a half years alone.

I have persevered,

even when I felt that I was getting nowhere on certain issues, but, I never give up and always see things through to make sure I get the best deal available, like setting up the working group that reduced consultants, which has saved us a fortune.

I have been involved in several meetings in London and Birmingham banging the drum for Stoke, which I believe has been neglected in the past. There needs to be more done.

Regeneration will be the key to putting our city back on the map

although I have voiced my views several times where I think that Regeneration has been too slow.
The council needs to push the Government even harder to make sure Stoke-on-Trent gets Enterprise Zone status to improve our situation.

Although this year’s budget settlement has been severe and difficult to manage,

we were able to save Children’s centres, Respite care for disabled children along with many front line services that other councils have reduced. Also put a freeze on council tax.

Incoming councillors will be faced with the stark reality of finding next years £20million savings. This will need some skill and a lot of hard work and I hope I am there to help get the best deal available.

Don’t forget I am a resident and taxpayer and what affects you affects me.

Brian Ward
Leader of the City Independents
Blurton Ward Councillor

Immigration, Mosques & Reptilian Miliband – BNP Manifesto 2011

The BNP Roadshow hit Stoke-on-Trent today [Sunday] to launch their local election manifesto.

In a very low key affair, National Media Spokesman Simon Darby, National Organiser Adam Walker and Stoke BNP Leader Michael Coleman addressed a small number of party activists, security and local councillors in Bennett Precinct in Longton town Centre. Continue reading