Housing repairs £4.5m over budget but still award winning

While the Sentinel were reporting today that Stoke-on-Trent City Councils housing repair bill was £4.5 million over budget, Kier Stoke were publicising that had won a Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) award for its work alongside Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The company was announced the winner of the ‘Excellence in Working Together’ category for its project ‘Reigniting the Customer Experience’, at the TPAS central region finals. Kier Stoke ensured its responsive repairs service was both time efficient and cost effective, while meeting the needs of the local community. Continue reading

Rumour has it…Government will announce intervention in Stoke by tomorrow

By Matt Taylor

On March 13 Pits’n’Pots reported that national government would definitely be stepping in to control Stoke-on-Trent city council. Now it emerges that the move is about to be formally announced.

We have received information suggesting that Elected Mayor Mark Meredith, Councillor and Deputy Elected Mayor Mohammed Pervez, along with interim council manager, Chris Harmon, have already been to Westminster to film an interview in which the decision will be revealed.

And it is believed that the statement will be broadcast by tomorrow at the latest, before the start of the Easter break.
It is not yet apparent what exactly the intervention will consist of, although it is clear that such an action in which the running of an entire authority is subject to the interference of national officials is virtually unprecedented. It is believed, that in its initial stage, national government will be putting its foot down to insist upon all-out elections, a motion which the council recently voted against.

In Walsall, back in 1995, the Labour leadership cracked down on the council following division from within the local Labour group. There, intervention also stemmed from a Governance report which found the authority wanting and at the time was only the second occasion in which a council had been referred for government interference after Hackney, London. Many of the local representatives condemned the move as a disproportionate “centralisation of power”.

And there is no doubt that the step will be received with equal scepticism from councillors in Stoke-on-Trent ““ many of whom believe that current issues which have led up to this situation have been beyond their control.

If the intervention is such that the authority is put under the heavy-handed control of outsiders, it will be disappointing for those of the 60-strong members who feel that if there could have been agreement and consensus between them, the council has the strength and quality to go forward.

However, unfortunately we are in a position in which there is a coalition of councillors on the executive board, who seem more interested in holding on to power than admitting that the present arrangements are inadequate. We have an Elected Mayor who is continuing his title but not the job, an acting Elected Mayor who was not elected into his position, and a chief executive who has similar powers who was only supposed to be a temporary fix-it and, of course, wasn’t elected either. So, sadly, the fact that Westminster wants to have a say, doesn’t really come as a surprise.

COUNCIL TOLD: NATIONAL GOVERNMENT WILL NOW INTERVENE

breaking-news1By Matt Taylor

After Pits’n’Pots commented on Sunday that the most likely result of the current situation at Stoke City Council was government intervention, on Tuesday the Department for Communities and Local Government admitted that it is watching proceedings and ready to intervene if necessary “to enable the people of Stoke-on-Trent to have the effective and accountable council which they deserve”. Now, we can reveal, the Government has had enough.

My sources have told me that senior officers at Stoke-on-Trent City Council were briefed yesterday on the situation and told to get ready for the powers from above to come in and take control in a major intervention.

It is seen that the move is necessary in order for the local population to regain confidence in the local authority, which has been depleted by the current corruption investigation.

Following dissatisfaction over councillors failing to back a resolution to bring about all-out elections, ministers were already keeping an eye on politics in Stoke and were considering enforcing the new arrangements. But now, with the local authority in turmoil and about to be dictated to by Labour nationally, it is likely that this and all of last year’s other Governance Commission recommendations will be imposed.

It was hoped that the council would be able to solve the situation internally. But despite efforts by leaders of each group on the council to unite to tackle the current problems, the situation has not resolved itself.

As Mick Salih has noted, any attempts were thwarted by executive councillors who he thought “were more interested in keeping their positions on the Executive Management Board than having a serious debate on how we can get more members involved in the decision making process”.

And Peter Kent-Baguley commented: “It quickly became apparent that the coalition group leaders had been well briefed to stay aboard their discredited Labour, Tory, Lib Dem coalition, concocted two years ago to keep the minority Labour group and its elected mayor afloat.”

This left us with the bizarre situation of having an Elected Mayor who had been appointed, rather than elected, somewhat of a contradiction in terms and, despite having 60 elected councillors still around to try to come up with some kind of solution, any such result was hindered by those only concerned with holding on to the morsel of power they had left.