Cockster Brook

The area known as Cockster Brook is a wild park bordered by Longton South, Blurton, and the A50. Friends of Cockster Brook group has been set up a little over six months now, and we have achieved a number of environmental improvements for the benefit of all users of the green space.

The damaged gate at Farne grove has been replaced with a heavy duty gate. Dog litter and refuse bins have been installed at 13 of the entrances to the area.

Repairs to the two bridges is under way, though we do not yet have a completion date. 2.5km of pathway is currently being scraped back to 1.8m width, with drainage ditches, and piping being fitted where necessary (several spots around the area were just a quagmire whenever it rained). This is due to be finished by March.

We are currently working on the installation of seating, at strategic points around the area, and have been promised the help of Community Payback with litter picking and general tidying up of the area.

We have achieved a lot in a short time, but could not have done so without the direct help and enthusiastic support of Council Officers, and the ward councillors of both Longton South and Blurton. Especially Councillors Joan Bell, and Roy Naylor. To whom we offer our profound thanks.

Democracy4Stoke ““ The Revenge

Is the Labour Party taking its final retribution on those campaigners that led to the overwhelming public victory of getting rid of the Elected Mayor. This weekend the City Labour Party in Stoke, which is chaired by Sarah Hill, former assistant director of Adult social Care in Stoke, with the West Midlands Regional Labour Party in control, interviewed applicants for Labour candidates for the local elections in 2010. The Labour Party locally has prioritised and targeted 6 seats in the city for extra resources and campaining: Abbey Green Bentilee and Townsend Burslem South Tunstall Fenton Longton North Sources from the event which lasted for 2 days, have revealed as little as 17 Labour members applied for the 20 seats to be contested. More telling is that 6 of those were rejected. Who you ask? Joy Garner or Joan Bell, who left the Labour Group? No. 5 of the 6 were active campaigners to get rid of the Elected Mayor: Gary Elsby Terry Crowe (former councillor) Barry Stockley (former council leader and current PA to Mark Fisher MP) Mick Williams (D4S organiser and former councillor) Denver Tolley (current councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor) Majid Khan This comes on top of the loss over the last couple of years of others who actively campaigned to get rid of the Elected Mayor and are still currently councillors: Cllr Dave Conway Cllr Alan Joynson Cllr Pauline Joynson Cllr Mick Salih Cllr Peter Kent Baguley For the first time in decades, there is real possibility that Labour will not be able to contest all 20 seats. Down to 14 councillors and only 11 candidates – is this the end? This witch hunt is brought about by those that want to blame everybody but themselves for the mess the local Labour Party and more importantly, the City is in. They cannot see that they completely disconnected with the people: that the whole experimental disaster of the Elected Mayor is directly responsible for this monumental downfall. Lets take Cllr Denver Tolley. Some may not agree with his politics, but this man has dedicated and given years of his life to the Labour Party and the City. He is also currently the Deputy Lord Mayor and supposed to be the Lord Mayor next year, but now ruthlessly tossed aside by the New Labour machine. As the casualties pile up, as BNP grows in strength, and as they arrogantly manipulate local party structures and members to suit their own ends – will they ever see that the people of this City are not all blind to these games. It would not even surprise me if Mark Meredith, or his other failed Elected Mayor cliché colleague, Mervin Smith, have the brass neck to put their name forward? We wait with baited breathe as the City Party selects its candidates on the 27/ 28 November 2009, with a “policy” conference to follow on 5 December 2009

For Whom The ‘Bell’ Tolls

Source: Potteye Blog.

by Mike Barnes.

Cllr Joan Bell recently returned to the Labour Group and made the following quote:

“I was reluctant to leave the Labour Group, but was unable to work with the leader elected at the annual general meeting in June.”

During the time of Mrs Bell’s absence I remained silent about the matter but now feel I must set the record straight.

Firstly, let me say that Joan Bell has become an excellent ward councillor within the Longton South Ward. However, there is a much darker side to Joan which is very difficult to work with. Much of which has led to Joan not speaking to me for some considerable time and revolves around three key issues.

Joan was selected by the Labour Party to stand in the local elections in 2006, and I volunteered to be her election agent. I was also a leading figure in the growing Democracy4Stoke movement.

All of the local leaflets produced by me to promote Joan included the D4S logo and Joan, Bagh Ali and my commitment and support in the campaign to get rid of the Elected Mayor system in Stoke.

I believe this was a significant factor in her election victory.

However, following her appointment to the Elected Mayor’s Board, she appeared to change her stance to the point where she attacked me and said I was an “embarrassment” to the Labour Party, and that she never really supported our campaign.Subsequently, she did indeed help in the campaign to retain the Elected Mayor System during the Referendum against the indications made to her electorate at the time of her election.

I was a founding member of D4S and remained absolutely committed to its principles and objectives despite many, many attempts from all levels of the Labour Party to stop me at almost any cost.

Joan also made it difficult to work with her in the ward when she refused to speak to me following as issue regarding SERCO and its reorganisation of Childrens Social Care.

The initial implementation of the reorganisation, I think even SERCO would agree, was handled very badly, with little support for those affected and very poor communication. Joan Bell was the Chair of the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I had received many distressing calls from staff in Children’s Social Care, and indeed my wife was also a member of staff, which made it all the more personal to me. I made many attempts to Joan to scrutinise the matter to no avail, and led to me challenging her at a Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, as to why she was doing nothing over the matter. She didn’t speak to me for months and I was sacked as Chair of the Adult and Older People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee by Mike Tappin (incidentally against the policies and procedures of the Labour Party).

The next time she decided not to speak to me for months was when Dave Conway and myself started to have major concerns about Homelessness in the City. Joan Bell was the EMB member responsible for this issue, and both Dave and myself raised the matter at every internal meeting we could for three months. Once again to no avail. We eventually referred the matter to the relevant Scrutiny Committee.

She sent me an email which finished with the line “On a personal basis I have so often made allowances for your behaviour I feel I have come to the end of the road. I no longer wish to either work with you or speak to you.”

I am passionate about many issues, but to have this kind of pressure to keep quiet, otherwise I would not be spoken to was extremely difficult to work with. However, many others have suffered the same fate over the years.

You either agree with Joan or you get the silent treatment.

I don’t pretend to be easy to work with, but I have always tried to treat others with respect, and have never refused to speak to somebody because I disagreed with their views, from any political party, let alone my closest allies and ward colleagues.

Joan Back With Labour!

Longton South City Councillor Joan Bell today announced that she had re-joined the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council and was now back in the Labour fold.

The news follows her previous departure from the group because she “couldn’t work in the current structure”. But now that leader Mike Barnes has stepped down, she has reconsidered her position.

Joan said

I was very reluctant to leave the Labour Group, but was unable to work with the leader elected at the Annual General Meeting in June.

Throughout my time outside the group I remained a member of the Labour Party and supported it’s national policies. Now that circumstances have changed and a new leader is in place I have decided to re-join. I am confident that the Labour Group is now moving forward in the right direction and will put behind it the past few months. I look forward to working with the new leader, and am pleased to once more be a Labour councillor.

Labour Group Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said

I am delighted to welcome Joan Bell back into the Labour Group. She is an experienced and valued colleague who is respected both in the Civic Centre and the Longton South Ward she has represented on and off for over 20 years. Having Joan back in the group will further strengthen Labour’s position as we prepare to go out and listen to the views of the people of Stoke-on-Trent and engage with them.

Joan Back With Labour! – Breaking News

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Longton South City Councillor Joan Bell today announced that she had re-joined the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent

Joan Bell

Joan Bell

City Council and was now back in the Labour fold.

The news follows her previous departure from the group because of she “couldn’t work in the current structure”.  But now that leader Mike Barnes has stepped down, she has reconsidered her position.

Joan said: “I was very reluctant to leave the Labour Group, but was unable to work with the leader elected at the Annual General Meeting in June.”

“Throughout my time outside the group I remained a member of the Labour Party and supported it’s national policies. Now that circumstances have changed and a new leader is in place I have decided to re-join. I am confident that the Labour Group is now moving forward in the right direction and will put behind it the past few months. I look forward to working with the new leader, and am pleased to once more be a Labour councillor.”

Labour Group Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said: “I am delighted to welcome Joan Bell back into the Labour Group. She is an experienced and valued colleague who is respected both in the Civic Centre and the Longton South Ward she has represented on and off for over 20 years. Having Joan back in the group will further strengthen Labour’s position as we prepare to go out and listen to the views of the people of Stoke-on-Trent and engage with them.”

Joan Bell quits the labour group – again! UPDATED

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

Pits’n’Pots can reveal that councillor Joan Bell has quit the labour group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council – again!

The move, for reasons which are to be confirmed, follows her first leaving the group back in May when Mike Barnes took over as group leader.

But after pressure from above to either reverse her decision or face expulsion from the party, she rejoined the group last month.

Now we can confirm that she has once again resigned from the group to complete her in, out, shake it all about manoeuvre.

She had rejoined after the Labour Party National Executive issued a ultimatum giving a deadline for both her and Joy Garner to return to the group or be ousted from the party completely.

Both councillors took heed of the warning which meant Joy Garner had to also relinquish her role on the cabinet led by Ross Irving to return to the Labour ranks.

But now, a month on, and Joan has already thrown in the towel. We spoke to Joan this morning to ask for her motives. She said:

“In July I was given extra time to decide if I wanted to remain a member of the Labour group and I’ve taken that time to decide that I will no longer be a member, but will remain a strong supporter of the Labour Party as a whole.

“Although I did remain a Labour councillor, I’ve never been back to a group meeting since April.

“I just can’t work within the current structure. I don’t want to involve personalities but I think that makes it quite clear.”

Council Breaking News!

We have been getting information from our sources at Civic Centre saying that there are some councillors on the move.

Labour Group

We have been getting reports that Councillor Joy Garner has resigned from her position in the cabinet with immediate effect and rejoined the Labour Party.

We have also been told that there are rumours that Councillor Joan Bell is set to rejoin the party ahead of the Friday deadline set by the Labour Group for members to rejoin or face expulsion.

UPDATE:

We can now confirm that both Cllr Joy Garner has resigned from the cabinet & along with Cllr Joan Bell has rejoined the Labour Group.

Both had until Friday as per the instructions from the Labour Party national executive.

Mike Barnes, Labour Group Leader said: “The Labour Group is pleased that Joan has agreed with the NEC request”

Speaking in today’s Sentinel, Joy Garner said: “I have decided to re-register as a member of the Labour group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, as instructed by my party.

“It was a difficult decision for me to leave the Labour group, and it has been equally hard to decide to rejoin. However, I believe that, in the long term, it is far better to be a member of a group rather than a single individual who can achieve little.”

Council Leader Ross Irving said: “It’s regrettable that Joy has made this decision, but I feel she was put in a difficult position by her party.

“I understand Joy’s long relationship with the Labour group and her decision to rejoin the party, but I am sad to lose her from the cabinet. Joy was very good at the job she did.”

He added that he would hold talks in the next few days to decide whether to replace Mrs Garner or transfer her duties to another cabinet member.

He said: “There may be an opportunity to do some re-jigging of that portfolio so that we can run with one less member.”

Conservative & Independent Alliance

We have been told that at tonight’s meeting of the Conservative & Independent Alliance group, the 4 independent councillors are going to leave the group and stand on their own. This will have a significant impact on Ross Irving as both leader of the group and the Council.

UPDATE:

The threat of a split has been temporarily removed.

Discussions are thought to be on going and a final decision expected within days.

We will keep you informed.

BREAKING NEWS: …..AND GARNER MAKES THREE!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

The Labour Group on Stoke on Trent City Council was plunged into turmoil tonight!

Joy Garner

Joy Garner

Former Group Leader Joy Garner has resigned from the Labour Party and from the Labour Group.

Her resignation takes the number who have walked the walk across the council chamber to three.

First to resign was EMB member and Labour stalwart Joan Bell, she left the party because of ‘issues with the party structre’.

She said: “I am resigning because I just can’t work with the new structure of the Labour Group.

Joan Bell

Joan Bell

“I have done a lot of soul searching before coming to my decision and it has been a difficult one but I shall continue to be a supporter.”

Second to go was Buslem North Councillor Dave Conway who stormed out of Mondays Group Meeting which was attended by representatives of the National Executive.

Mr Conway was also reported to be unhappy with the group’s direction, he said: “I wasn’t happy with the direction the group was taking.

“I’m saddened, but I will continue to fight for the people.”

“I have been a Labour man all my life and I haven’t really made up my mind about what happens now.

Dave Conway

Dave Conway

” I’m not interested in politics any more.”

Joy Garner had decided to quit as the Labour whip at the now notorious group meeting on Monday. The next day it emerged that she was contemplating her future.

She said: “I am one of a number of councillors with concerns over the way that the Labour group is now being led.

“I will be considering the best way forward, but my immediate priority is to get over the recent ill-health I have suffered so that I can represent my ward and my city.”

Her statement gave the biggest clue that there was unrest within the Labour Group. The issue seemed to be the election of Mike Barnes as Group Leader.

However Mr Barnes is said the have the full backing of the National Executive and Regional Office West Midlands. Earlier this week Mike gave this reaction to the recent resignations. He said: “Dave Conway’s contribution will be sadly missed by the Labour Group. He has made his choice and I respect his views.”

He added: “There is a determination within the Labour Group and Labour Party to pull together and move forward for the benefit of the people of Stoke-on-Trent.”

Mrs Garner’s resignation leaves the Labour group with just 13 councillors.

This puts an obvious question mark over Mikes Barnes’s Council Leadership bid. But the contest is still thought to be a close call. The BNP group vote will now have a massive effect on the outcome of the contest.

The Labour Party are thought by some commentators to have scored a massive own goal.

John Healey the Local Government Minister has announced that there will be now be no elections in 2010. This means that the Local Labour Party will have to wait a further 12 months before they can attempt to get more new councillors into the council chamber.

The three former Labour members are thought to want to carry on as Independent councillors.

Sources within the council and some Labour Party activists have said that they ought to resign from the council, forcing a bi-election. They feel that these three councillors were elected as Labour Party members and therefore should now step down to give the electorate the opportunity to vote another Labour candidate in if they so desired.

Of course this is a decision for the three councillors to make.

City council successful in bin prosecution

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Joan Bell

Joan Bell

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been successful in its first prosecution against people who leave their wheelie bins out after collection for an unreasonable amount of time.

On 22 May, Fiona Knapper, of Wileman Street, Fenton, was fined £315 by Newcastle Magistrates Court for leaving her wheelie bin out on the street after 7pm on the day of collection, causing an obstruction on the road.

Councillor Joan Bell, portfolio holder for community safety and neighbourhood management, said: “There had already been several complaints made to the city council by residents of Wileman Street about persistent obstructions caused by people leaving wheelie bins in the street.

“The majority of offenders were dealt with by a £50 fixed penalty notice, after we had written to them to advise them of the correct time to bring in their bin. The city council felt it appropriate to take Miss Knapper to court after she continued to leave her bin out, and refused to pay the fine.”

The prosecution has been hailed as a success for both the city council and people who were finding the bins a major obstacle.

Councillor Bell added: “Although it may not sound like a major problem within the city, it is surprising how many complaints the city council receive from disabled members of the public and people with children in pushchairs who struggle to use the footpaths and end up having to use the road.

“If this means prosecuting the people who continue to ignore the requests of the city council then unfortunately there is no alternative.”

BREAKING NEWS: JOAN BELL RESIGNS FROM LABOUR GROUP!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Neighbourhood Management Cllr Joan Bell yesterday resigned from the Labour Group.

Joan Bell

Joan Bell

Joan Bell has been a Labour Party member for 35 years and a city councillor for 17 years.

Mrs Bell, talking to Pits’n’pots this morning, said: “I haven’t taken this decision lightly, it has taken a lot of soul searching”

“The main reason for my decision is that I don’t feel that I can work under the new party structure”

“I will continue to work to the best of my abilities. My decision to resign from the Labour Group will obviously mean that I will also leave the Labour Party”

“I have always been an will remain a Labour Party supporter”

It was widely known that Joan Bell and new Group Leader Mike Barnes had un-easy relationship recently. There had been suggestions of a rift between the two following the media article by Mike Barnes and Dave Conway about the housing shortage in Stoke On Trent.

Mrs Bell had been in support of and involved in the planning of the Elected Mayors green paper on housing. It has been suggested that she took exception at the timing of Barnes’s article and had taken it as a personal insult. Their relationship had deteriorated from there.

In an official statement to Pits’n’Pots, Labour Group Leader Mike Barnes said:

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

“I am sure you have been aware that over the last week or so that Joan Bell has been considering her position with the Labour Group.”

“I know many of her friends and colleagues inside and outside the Group have been trying to persuade Joan to reconsider, and, I am sure I speak for the whole Labour Group in thanking them all for their efforts.”

“Joan has been a committed, hard working and loyal member of the Labour Group over many years, and personally, her contribution will be sadly missed.”

“Her work, particularly over the last 12 months, having responsibility for Housing and Community Safety, has been of considerable benefit to the whole of Stoke-on-Trent.”

“On behalf of the whole Labour Group, I would like to thank Joan, for the many, many years of hard work, commitment and dedication to the community that she represents, the Labour Party and the City Council.”

“I wish her and her husband Denis all the best for the future.”

Joan Bell has been involved in some of the less controversial policies of the EMB and some of the most successful.

She worked on the very successful RESPECT days, which encouraged community engagement in some of the most deprived areas of the city.

Mrs Bell was also responsible for a PFI bid to provide extra care housing, she worked with representatives from local and national housing associations, construction companies, developers and architects. These outside bodies worked with Stoke-on-Trent City Council officers to develop the scheme. The plans were to provide up to 560 homes for older people.

Over to you……..