Inside the Civic

Those who thought all out elections would bring some stability to our Council must be feeling embarrassed this week as Council Leader Mohammed Pervez took a scalpel to his cabinet, cutting out the disobedient Gratton and challenger Hill, and carving up the other portfolios in what is quite clearly more than the ‘tweaking’ he described it as.

The introduction of Platt and Dutton is seen as a nod to the left wingers in the group, who re-emerged in 2011 to rival the modernisers who were in danger of taking over Labour. Continue reading

UPDATED: Overview and Scrutiny Management Meeting – Salih & PKB Hit Out!

By Tony Walley

Explosive PKB & Salih Audio Now Online!

Today I attended a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and in a kind of sad way, I really enjoyed it.

It was great to see the scrutiny process in full swing. The meeting was excellently chaired by Cllr Mark Davis and there were telling contributions for Cllr Paul Shotton, Cllr Mick Salih, Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley, Mike Coleman & Cllr Tom Reynolds. Cllr John Davies was also in attendance and there were late appearances by Cllr Dave Conway and Cllr Kieran Clarke.

The officer core was represented by Tom Macarntey the Acting Chief Executive and Paul Simpson, Director of Central Services.

The meeting got off to a controversial start with the elected members expressing their disgust at the fact that they were waiting for requested information from officers that had not been forth coming for the last two months. Paul Shotton was particularly critical of this as was Cllr Mick Salih and Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley. You can here more about this in the Audio Interview below.

City Farm

Cllr Tom Reynolds and Cllr John Davies both voiced concerns over the future of the City Farm. This popular facility is under threat despite being the subject of a review and a subsequent recommendation to explore ways of helping the City Farm to be more self funding. It had also been agreed that it should be helped to generate more income. Both councillors expressed concerns that  once again there is a possibility that this popular attraction is a target for even more cuts or could ultimately be closed and they proposed a further review to see if more help could be given before the executive of the council get the chance to wield the axe. Tom Reynolds pointed out to the meeting that many of the officers who had worked on the original proposal regarding the City Farm and how it should be financed had now left the authority. This ‘nest flying’ reared it’s head on more than one of the topics discussed at the meeting.

Burslem.

The mother town came in for a fair amount of discussion at today’s meeting. Cllr Mick Salih raised concerns at the dilapidated state of what is said to be the most historical of the six towns. All elected members were disappointed at the fact that Burslem’s Indoor Market was still closed and was in a terrible state of repair. Questions were asked at why nothing had been done to get the market repaired and re-opened. Cllr Paul Shotton said that revenue from the other successful indoor markets across the city should have been directed towards Burslem Market instead of being used on ‘other council projects’. He pointed out that Hanley Market had not been redecorated since it was first opened.

Tender For the appointment of an Agency to oversee the recruitment of Agency staff!

No you haven’t read that wrong! Council officers are looking to put out to tender for the appointment of an agency to oversee the recruitment of agency staff. This is despite the Council Leader and his Executive stating publicly that the city council must cut down on the use of consultants and agency staff. Elected members questioned why, when the council have a procurement department should there be a need to employ the use of such an agency. Surely this issue must be the responsibility of the said Procurement Department. I think all the elected representatives present were quite surprised at what could be described as a classic contradiction.

Transition Board

There was a really interesting discussion on the Governance Transition Board. All the elected members present asked if the TB were obliged to publish minutes. Cllr Salih stated that as a public body, that are paid £4000 in allowances from the public purse, they should be forced to publish the minutes so that they can be scrutinised by the elected members of the council and indeed members of the public should they wish to. Cllr Conway urged his fellow councillors not to get to excited as he thought that it would be easier getting minutes fro the Freemasons or indeed ‘Common Purpose’ meetings. Cllr Kent-Baguley informed the meeting that as support staff from the council were used in relation the the TB it was essential that elected members are informed of the progress this body of people are making in relation to the brief that they have.

Budget Shortfall

The most interesting agenda item was the report given to the meeting by Central Services Director Paul Simpson. The good news was that the shortfall in the budget had reduced from £17million to just short of £11million. Many departments still faced a substantial overspend but through the non delivery of certain budget plans and strategic savings in various areas across the council, Mr Simpson was able to report on what is a healthy amount to come off the budget deficit. He also informed the meeting that officers were already working on the budget for the next financial year. Acting Chief Executive Tom Macartney stated that he was more confident with the figures for the new budget than he had been the previous ones. He voiced concerns over some department and their failure to stay on budget and he reminded the meeting that in the private sector this would result in heads of department loosing their jobs. Cllr Conway informed the meeting that the council were currently owed some £2.5million in council house rents and he warned Paul Simpson that there was no way he would support a rise in council house rents for the next financial and penalise those who were willing to pay, to subsidise those who would not pay. There was a long discussion about car parking charges across the city. Cllr Kieran Clarke, the cabinet members for resources came in for some criticism but in fairness he did not give an adequate response when questioned about his press release ragrding both the car parking issue and the voluntary redundancy programme. You can hear more about the issue of car parking in the audio interview below. The elected members scrutinised the officers on the proposed voluntary redundancy programme. In excess of 500 council employees have expressed an interest in taking this option. Departmental heads along with the various cabinet members with responsibility for those departments have assessed where positions can be cut without an impact on front-line services. The councillors present wanted assurance that services would be protected. There is a report going to cabinet this week with a recommendation that 243 council employees be offered a voluntary redundancy package and if it is agreed at cabinet, departmental heads can start to discuss the details with those employees. This scheme will only save the authority some £600,ooo in the present financial year. Cllr Shotton voiced his concerns that there was still a long way to go to achieve financial stability within the authority, a view shared by Paul Simpson the Director for Central Services and Tom Macartney the acting Chief Executive.

I was impressed with all the elected representatives present. The meeting was thorough and the officers present were questioned and their decisions scrutinised. Our council often gets criticised for being poor and fragmented, but here was an example of how good the process can be. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the elected representatives who were present at that meeting. This was local government working in all it’s full glory.

For more detail on some of the issues raised in this article, please listen to the following Audio Interviews with Cllr Mick Salih & Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley:

Report on Overview and Scrutiny Management Meeting”¦

Audio Interviews Now Online!

Today I attended a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and in a kind of sad way, I really enjoyed it.

It was great to see the scrutiny process in full swing. The meeting was excellently chaired by Cllr Mark Davis and there were telling contributions for Cllr Paul Shotton, Cllr Mick Salih, Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley, Mike Coleman & Cllr Tom Reynolds. Cllr John Davies was also in attendance and there were late appearances by Cllr Dave Conway and Cllr Kieran Clarke.

The officer core was represented by Tom Macarntey the Acting Chief Executive and Paul Simpson, Director of Central Services.

The meeting got off to a controversial start with the elected members expressing their disgust at the fact that they were waiting for requested information from officers that had not been forth coming for the last two months. Paul Shotton was particularly critical of this as was Cllr Mick Salih and Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley. You can here more about this in the Audio Interview below.

City Farm

Cllr Tom Reynolds and Cllr John Davies both voiced concerns over the future of the City Farm. This popular facility is under threat despite being the subject of a review and a subsequent recommendation to explore ways of helping the City Farm to be more self funding. It had also been agreed that it should be helped to generate more income. Both councillors expressed concerns that once again there is a possibility that this popular attraction is a target for even more cuts or could ultimately be closed and they proposed a further review to see if more help could be given before the executive of the council get the chance to wield the axe. Tom Reynolds pointed out to the meeting that many of the officers who had worked on the original proposal regarding the City Farm and how it should be financed had now left the authority. This “Ëœnest flying’ reared it’s head on more than one of the topics discussed at the meeting.

Burslem.

The mother town came in for a fair amount of discussion at today’s meeting. Cllr Mick Salih raised concerns at the dilapidated state of what is said to be the most historical of the six towns. All elected members were disappointed at the fact that Burslem’s Indoor Market was still closed and was in a terrible state of repair. Questions were asked at why nothing had been done to get the market repaired and re-opened. Cllr Paul Shotton said that revenue from the other successful indoor markets across the city should have been directed towards Burslem Market instead of being used on “Ëœother council projects’. He pointed out that Hanley Market had not been redecorated since it was first opened.

Tender For the appointment of an Agency to oversee the recruitment of Agency staff!

No you haven’t read that wrong! Council officers are looking to put out to tender for the appointment of an agency to oversee the recruitment of agency staff. This is despite the Council Leader and his Executive stating publicly that the city council must cut down on the use of consultants and agency staff. Elected members questioned why, when the council have a procurement department should there be a need to employ the use of such an agency. Surely this issue must be the responsibility of the said Procurement Department. I think all the elected representatives present were quite surprised at what could be described as a classic contradiction.

Transition Board

There was a really interesting discussion on the Governance Transition Board. All the elected members present asked if the TB were obliged to publish minutes. Cllr Salih stated that as a public body, that are paid £4000 in allowances from the public purse, they should be forced to publish the minutes so that they can be scrutinised by the elected members of the council and indeed members of the public should they wish to. Cllr Conway urged his fellow councillors not to get to excited as he thought that it would be easier getting minutes fro the Freemasons or indeed “ËœCommon Purpose’ meetings. Cllr Kent-Baguley informed the meeting that as support staff from the council were used in relation the the TB it was essential that elected members are informed of the progress this body of people are making in relation to the brief that they have.

Budget Shortfall

The most interesting agenda item was the report given to the meeting by Central Services Director Paul Simpson. The good news was that the shortfall in the budget had reduced from £17million to just short of £11million. Many departments still faced a substantial overspend but through the non delivery of certain budget plans and strategic savings in various areas across the council, Mr Simpson was able to report on what is a healthy amount to come off the budget deficit. He also informed the meeting that officers were already working on the budget for the next financial year. Acting Chief Executive Tom Macartney stated that he was more confident with the figures for the new budget than he had been the previous ones. He voiced concerns over some department and their failure to stay on budget and he reminded the meeting that in the private sector this would result in heads of department loosing their jobs. Cllr Conway informed the meeting that the council were currently owed some £2.5million in council house rents and he warned Paul Simpson that there was no way he would support a rise in council house rents for the next financial and penalise those who were willing to pay, to subsidise those who would not pay. There was a long discussion about car parking charges across the city. Cllr Kieran Clarke, the cabinet members for resources came in for some criticism but in fairness he did not give an adequate response when questioned about his press release ragrding both the car parking issue and the voluntary redundancy programme. You can hear more about the issue of car parking in the audio interview below. The elected members scrutinised the officers on the proposed voluntary redundancy programme. In excess of 500 council employees have expressed an interest in taking this option. Departmental heads along with the various cabinet members with responsibility for those departments have assessed where positions can be cut without an impact on front-line services. The councillors present wanted assurance that services would be protected. There is a report going to cabinet this week with a recommendation that 243 council employees be offered a voluntary redundancy package and if it is agreed at cabinet, departmental heads can start to discuss the details with those employees. This scheme will only save the authority some £600,ooo in the present financial year. Cllr Shotton voiced his concerns that there was still a long way to go to achieve financial stability within the authority, a view shared by Paul Simpson the Director for Central Services and Tom Macartney the acting Chief Executive.

I was impressed with all the elected representatives present. The meeting was thorough and the officers present were questioned and their decisions scrutinised. Our council often gets criticised for being poor and fragmented, but here was an example of how good the process can be. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the elected representatives who were present at that meeting. This was local government working in all it’s full glory.

For more detail on some of the issues raised in this article, please listen to the following Audio Interviews with Cllr Mick Salih & Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley:

SERCO ““ time to go!

By Nicky Davis

Source ““ Sentinel

It is reported that children and young people’s services could now be brought  back in house as a result of cash shortages.  I hope SERCO really are on their way out now!  Like Rob Flello says, “I won’t be sorry to see them go.”  He also says they set back BSF by several years.  Good old Mick Salih goes even further and says they failed miserably on BSF.  Well said Mick!

The Sentinel says there were “damning reports on the council’s treatment of vulnerable children in care and declining educational attainment levels”.

Chris Harman now wants to bring children’s services back under council control.  Well good for Chris, I agree with him in this case.  What is worrying though is this makes it crystal clear who is in charge of the council.  Chris Harman says they have  “made a recommendation TO the council cabinet that management of children and young people’s services comes back in-house from April”.  So Ross Irving and Ian Mitchell are just going along with Chris.  Well good, because I agree with children’s services being under council control.  But I don’t agree with the general point of the leader and cabinet just doing what officers tell them.  We should have the councillors we elected making the decisions.

Anyway, let’s hope we will be waving goodbye to SERCO from April.

Wol on the re-birth of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Comment By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Following Thursday’s Full Council Meeting, I can confirm that the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council is back with a bang!

Of course there were a couple of interesting agenda items, but the one thing I was really interested in witnessing was how the Labour Group would perform in their first full council meeting as the official opposition.

I have to say that I think that Council Leader Ross Irving and his band of merry Tories, City Independents, a Lib Dem and the odd Labour defector could be in for a very rough ride. Especially if they step out of line!

On Thursday it was completely refreshing to see the Labour Party in action. Under the Elected Mayor system they were merely ‘nodding donkeys’ under a leader who did not want to rock the boat.

I knew some of the Labour Group did not agree with the direction that their group was being led, but they stuck it out and fought from within, unlike the previous leader who when faced with a change of direction defected for the lure of the cabinet dollar.

It amazes me that the previous Labour Group Leader claims that she was ‘forced out’ of the group. I have been told by several Labour councillors that every attempt was made to keep her in the group.

I left the Council Meeting on Thursday contented and for the first time I felt as it was business as it should be within the Council Chamber.

Paul Shotton, Adrian Knapper, Mark Davis, Tom Reynolds, Bagh Ali, Mohammed Pervez all showed that they are up to the jobs of being an effective opposition. Every one of the Labour speakers made contributions which left me in no doubt that they mean business. Every decision that Ross Irving, Chris Harman and the Cabinet come up with will be analysed and scrutinised with a fine tooth comb more thoroughly than ever before.

Unlike the previous opposition groups, they will not oppose for oppositions sake, where they agree with the Council Leader they will not be afraid to say.

As someone who has an interest in politics in this city, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the coming months. I was often left frustrated that the elected mayor was left to bulldoze his manifesto through without the sort of opposition that we can now expect from the Labour Group.

What a shame that the BSF proposals and other controversial decisions have not been subjected to the current Labour Groups scrutiny. It would have been interesting to see how Mike Barnes and his group would have dealt with them.

Along with Peter Kent-Baguley and Mick Salih, the chamber now has a large number of councillors from within the Labour Group that are also great orators, which will ensure lively and intelligent debate in the coming months.

I hope that Ross and his Cabinet make a success of their time in charge and I hope that all their decisions are for the good of the city. If they aren’t you can be sure that the Labour Group will be the first shouting it out from the heart of the civic centre and of course, unlike the Elected Mayor system, there is always the threat of the dreaded ‘vote of no confidence’.

Ross faced a barrage of criticism over the procedure for Cabinet Meetings  and at times during Thursday’s Full Council he looked visibly under pressure but he can look forward to more of the same if he is seen to be un-reasonable.

To my mind, Labour are back! I saw for the first time since this blog started, the kind of Labour Party I joined some years ago and it nearly made me want to re-join.

That is, if they would have me……………….. !

Have a great weekend and let’s hope for a victory for England’s cricketers in the second Ashes test and and for a British name to be on top of the leaderboard in the Open Championship from Turnberry.

Should the city be a state of ‘Independence’?

Comment By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

It’s now May, the city is five weeks away from one of the biggest changes in our city’s history. Our elected representatives will get to choose the new Council Leader from one of their own.

Whoever the new leader turns out to be, he/she will require the votes of 31 other councillors. The vote will be a ringing endorsement for that particular person, a vote of real confidence you could say.

Over recent times I have spoken to many people from all sides of the chamber and believe it or not, with just a few weeks to go to the big day, no one clear favourite has emerged.

Over the past three months, when you would expect candidates and their parties to shine like a beacon of best practice we have seen the main coalition parties implode.

So, is it now time for the city to seek a new direction and encourage our elected representatives to return an Independent council leader?

If you take my party the Libdems, just what do they stand for locally? I joined the party as they best represent my political views nationally. Here in Stoke I have yet to see a single Libdem policy in print, I have yet to be invited to any meeting, yet I have had a letter asking me if I am willing to stand as a candidate in 2010/2011.

Kieran Clarke is, from what I am told, an excellent councillor and portfolio holder. But anyone listening to the audio interview I did with him this week would struggle to gleam what the Libdems stand for in this city despite my probing and giving him several opportunities to tell us what the party could do for the city.

Jean Bowers has stepped down as leader in anticipation of being the next Lord Mayor. It has been suggested to me that there maybe a call for Terry Follows to be the next Lord Mayor in recognition of his efforts and support in helping to save Trentham High School. I don’t think many of the city’s electorate would argue against Terry Follows as he typifies everything you could ask for in a ward councillor. Mrs Bowers on the other hand has ruffled the electorates feathers on more than one occasion. She also has angered some of the other councillors in the chamber.

Zulfiqar Ali

Zulfiqar Ali

Dr Ali has succeeded Paul Billington as deputy leader. This is a strange decision in many ways. Dr Ali has only been in the party and the council for just over a year where as Paul Billington has a wealth of experience and has demonstrated that he has great understanding of council procedures and is well known for his scrutiny of the officers. This change in the Libdem Party has highlighted a division equal to that in the Labour Party and has denied their party the front bench services of a fierce spokesperson.

Well, we have just seen the end to the popular TV programme ‘Hells Kitchen’ and it seems the heat of the EMB kitchen was too hot for a certain Tory EMB member Ross Irving. Apparently the heat of the grilling that councillors gave the EMB got poor Ross so hot under the collar that he fled the furnace of the Windsor room to the relative coolness of the council corridor.

Ross is tipped by many to be the next Leader of the council especially if the present coalition holds firm. But when you

Ross Irving

Ross Irving

really analyse the Conservative and Independent Alliance you discover that as well as having not one single policy they also have no natural leader now that Roger Ibbs has stepped down. I know Ibbsy is as popular in Trentham as a Jehovah’s Witness at an atheists convention, but come on, could you ever see Ibss walking out of any meeting because the argument got too fierce for him? There is no way he would have stormed out. He would have argued to the end and stood firm in the face of adversity with the usual stubbornness or is it arrogance?.

Lee Wanger would never be able to lead that group for reasons well known. Clive Rigby and Hazel Lyth are far too quiet.  So where is the real leader of that group. More importantly the only possible candidate for Council Leader from that group has proved that he can’t stand the heat of the battle.

So in my opinion two out of the three coalition parties have no single policy of their own to pursue. They are happy to cling on to the coat tails of the Elected mayor and my understanding is that, most of the EMB expect to be in any new cabinet of the soon to be Council Leader.

The Labour party seem to be getting their acts together at the grass roots level but their are major cracks appearing within the council group. Labour councillors not speaking or even communicating with each other. Question marks over who will be the next leader of the group. Differences of opinion on whether the party should or should not be in a coalition. There is a strong possibility that the labour party may become the main opposition party united behind a new Leader that is not tainted by the EMB brush. The national executive come to Stoke next week to interview group councillors and to establish whether there will be any disciplinary action taken against the group leader and fellow Labour EMB members for voting against the group whip. The National Exec will also consider counter allegations made by the EMB members. More worryingly they will decide whether to hold an AGM where any new leader would be voted in. They need to consider their actions very carefully as the wrong move could turn more of the electorate against the traditional party of the working class and encourage them to vote for the far right BNP.

The city expect, no demand a ‘new’ City Labour Party either heading the coalition or leading the opposition.

Brian Ward

Brian Ward

That leaves the City Independents. Maybe our city would benefit from an Independent leader and who better than the ‘silver fox’  Brian Ward. He is a great speaker and a thoroughly nice guy. He is experienced (unlike Mr Rigby) and he is sure to give the Council management a hard ride on behalf of the electorate. He is outside the tainted discredited EMB and has often been seen to lead the vocal oppostion against the EMB/coalition. If the new council leader is to signal a new era for our city isn’t it better to have a politician with no visable baggage?

I ask for one thing from the new leader whoever it may be. Pick the best candidates for the cabinet. Make sure the peoples champions Peter Kent-Baguley and Mick Salih are there to give the sort of scrutiny we have come to expect from them. Recognise that the city is crying out for change.

Maybe an Independent Leader is just the thing that is needed in this city, that and the fierce opposition of a committed, revitalised and rejuvinated Labour Party united behind a new effective leader ready to oppose any decision that they think is taking our city in the wrong direction.

Maybe then the Tories and the Libdems in this city will be forced to seek their own direction and their own policies. This in turn will give us the electorate real choices to make at the next local elections.

Our council chamber should then be a vibrant, exciting, diverse room with heated but reasoned debate that may well make our city the inclusive society that we all crave for.

Executive Management Board or Nodding Donkeys

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Mick Salih

Mick Salih

I attended my first E.M.B meeting this evening (I had been warned that I would be wasting my time as the board wouldn’t take any notice of other elected members views as they would always follow the Council Manager and the Deputy Elected Mayor’s decisions) How right they were they performed exactly the way I was told.

The E.M.B. members acted like Nodding donkeys and agreed with all of the Executive’s recommendations  without listening to some very good points raised by other councillors who are not part of the Executive.

When the non- Executive councillors got the better of the E.M.B, one portfolio member stormed out  and the meeting was then suspended for 10 minutes but after a wait of 25 minutes they decided to return.

This was after a closed meeting was held with the Council Manager and Deputy Elected Mayor the debate then continued in the same old way of simply not listening to the other councillors views.

The other councillors decided  what was the point of staying and wasting their time in trying to make the E.M.B. members see reason and give justice to other peoples point of view the non-executive councillors decided Â there was no point in remaining so they left the meeting, they decided they will have to use the call in system to try and reverse some of the Executives Decisions.

WHAT A WAY TO RUN A COUNCIL!

By Cllr Mick Salih

Labour: Disciplinary action pending!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

The motion calling for disciplinary action against three Labour Party EMB members was removed from the agenda at last night’s City Labour Party meeting.

The motion, put forward by former city councillor Graham Wallace, called for action to be taken against group leader Joy Garner, Deputy Mayor Mohammed Pervez and Debra Gratton for voting against Labour Group policy and ignoring the group whip.

If found guilty of the accusations made, the three could face suspension or even expulsion from the Labour party.

The motion was not allowed before the meeting because the case has now been referred to the party’s national executive. Eric Wilson has been called in to investigate the matter and is due to come to Stoke in the next week to resolve the issue.

Mr Wilson will also investigate counter claims thought to be made by Joy Garner that Barry Stockley and Mike Barnes broke party rules during audio interviews on this site that were recorded after the last EMB meeting on April 15th.

Mr Wilson has been directed to this site by the complainants. He has also gagged all councillors and members involved in this investigation.

Sources confirmed that Mr Wilson headed up the investigation into Mick Salih’s case when he broke the party whip a few years ago. He received a suspension which ultimately led to him leaving the party. Peter Kent-Baguley and Reg Booth also received the same punishment.

Party activists are keen to ensure these three EMB members receive the same punishment if found guilty.

A source said that the Labour Party is united in the desire to see the national executive carry out a thorough investigation into all the allegations and to display consistancy in their dealings with all those involved.

Party members claim that this issue has brought the party closer together and has focused all members on a common cause to see a review of secondary schools, catchment areas and school locations carried out in the Central/Southern area. Members are committed to this review now that Trentham High’s victory has enabled the opportunity to re-visit unpopular BSF plans.

NSRP ROW HEATS UP!

By Tony Walley

Last Thursday in the full council meeting there was a debate lasting around 1.5hrs about the vacant chair position of the NSRP.

The position is vacant due to the Elected Mayor Mark Meredith stepping down following his recent police arrest.

Mayor Meredith denies all allegations against him, but he decided to step down from being chairman of the NSRP although  he remains a board member.

The board were due to elected a non political chairperson when Mr Merediths tenure expires in June with a possible salary of between £20k and £30k  (for less than a day a week’s work).

This has caused anger amongst some councillors and in particular Mick Salih who was the first councillor to raise this issue in the chamber some months ago.

Mick Salih

Mick Salih

After last Thursday Mick Salih gave Pits’n’Pots this exclusive interview:

During the council debate Mr Salih submitted an amended motion to instruct the city council’s representatives on the NSRP board not to vote for an independent chairman.

Members voted 35 to 16 in favour of the amendment, despite warnings from Mr Harman and Conservative and Independent Alliance leader councillor Ross Irving that it could damage relations between the council and its partners.

Speaking in today’s Sentinel Interim Council Manager Chris Harman said: “I was particularly disappointed with the amendment that was put forward because it affects how we work with the partnership.

“It is not about the council being in the driving seat of the partnership; sometimes it’s better to let someone else drive

Chris Harmon

Chris Harmon

because that way you get more co-operation.

“I advised members against proceeding with that amendment because there is no voting by the board on that matter, so it was a bit of a mistake as it was a pointless amendment.”

He added: “That is not the way to work in partnership.”

Whilst Mr Harman may think that the council vote last Thursday was a mistkae, nevertheless the majority of city councillors bar Labour and a few others, want our city to have a bigger say on how the NSRP operates.

Mick Salih has pointed out many times that it is the City Council that is the accountable body (which it states in the NSRP’s documentation) and he strongly believes that the new council leader, whoever that may be, should be the chair of the Regeneration Board.

It has been suggested by some political commentators that the Chair should be split between the Authorities involved, i.e. Stoke for six months and Staffs Moorlands and Newcastle Borough for three each.

There is no doubt that this issue sparked one of the most fierce and bitter debates seen in the council chamber in a long while. At one time in the debate it looked as if Chris Harman was in dispute with the legal officer Paul Hackney as to whether voting on the amendment was outside the legalities of the chamber.

Regeneration is probably one of the most important issues that face our city at the moment and is likely to for some time to come. It is vital that it is handled correctly. It is also vital that we have one of the strongest councillors overseeing the delivery of the city’s regeneration policies.

Regeneration will see a dramatic change to our city’s landscape. If we get the this wrong the impact will blight the city for many years to come.

Mick Salih wants the new council leader to head up the NSRP from June. unelected Chief Exec for some reason wants an unelected person for the post. What do you think about this debate? Which side do you come down on? What do you want to see from our city’s regeneration programme?

Over to you…….

Is Sarah’s Law being Undermined?

Mick Salih

Mick Salih

Comment By Mick Salih.

The trial scheme on Sarah’s law is proposed to be extended to more areas of the country. I fully support this, as if it can save only one child from abuse it surely is the right way forward. But should we also be looking at a change in the law regarding appointment of Local Councillors?

“Councillors have a responsibility as corporate parents to do their best for children in care. Training and support can help elected members in this important role” – This quote was made by Cllr Les Lawrence, chairman of the Local  Government Association Children and young people’s board. Fine words indeed, and I would fully support his comments. But first we as councillors should put our own house in order and be pressing Government for a change in the law on who can stand for the position of Councillor. At the moment you only have to be declared a bankrupt or have served more than three months in prison to be excluded from standing as a Councillor in local elections. This is not acceptable! In Stoke on Trent we have a Councillor who is presently on the SEX offenders register so how can he fulfil the role as a CORPORATE PARENT?

If local Government is to have any kind of credibility the LGA should be addressing this loophole and asking for the law to be changed, so that some crimes should automatically exclude people  from standing for local Government. I feel that as an elected member, a parent and grandparent my responsibilities don’t stop at children in care. But to all children i.e as a school Governor, visiting residents in their homes and communicating with vulnerable residents.

If we are to rid our society of crimes against young people, surely we should be making a start in this quarter and show our support to Sarah’s Law.