Standards report exonerates Ibbs.

A report to the Standards Committee which meet on the 9th December 2009 completely exonerates Cllr Roger Ibbs from any wrong doing during the investigation into the Dimensions fiasco.

The report is to provide the Committee with an opportunity to consider whether there any Standards issues remaining following the conclusion of the Staffordshire Police Investigation.

There had been a number of allegations concerning the proposed closure of the Council run splash pool facilty at Dimensions Leisure Centre, Burslem.

The report also confirms that the original fact finding exercise had being extended to include the removal of Cllr Roger Ibbs from the portfolio holder for Regeneration in the then Elected Mayor’s Executive and Members’ Board.

It also confirms that the interim Chief Executive, Chris Harman sanctioned the formal report be submitted to the Police in November 2008, on the advice of Head of Local Government, Mark Greenburgh.

Paragraph 3.8 of the report states:

Whilst it is not the purpose of this Committee to inquire into the details of the police investigation, it has been suggested that, had matters been referred to the police earlier than they were, Councillor Ibbs’ account of events would have been as a victim and potential witness, and would not have been tainted by the events that followed.

It also confirms that the reports findings will be discussed at a Full Council Meeting at some time in the near future. It says:

Should the Committee accept the analysis set out in this report and
agree that there are no specific Standards issues remaining to be dealt
with, it should also note that the wider implications of the whole chain
of events will be the subject of a report to all councillors at a
forthcoming meeting of the full City Council. This will look at the
broader picture of how organisational lessons might be learned from
the experience with a view to putting in place processes and
procedures aimed at preventing similar occurrences in future. The
outcome of the City Council’s deliberations will be reported to the
Committee at a future meeting

If, as expected, the Standards Committee accept the report, Cllr Ibbs will have the opportunity to address the council chamber and to express his thanks for his fellow councillors support. He will also seek to bring closure to what has been a distressing period in his life.

Talking to Pits’n’Pots today Cllr Ibbs Said:

"It would be improper of me to comment extensively in advance of the Standards Committee meeting. I will however be issuing a statement after that process has concluded"

"I know of the report and am aware of and welcome it’s contents".

"I would like to say that I fully appreciate the support given to me by my fellow councillors from all sides of the chamber and from people outside the council. To be honest, that is the only thing that has got me through one of the most terrible periods of my life".

Cllr Ibbs has been particularly critical of certain council officers’ conduct relating to this matter.

In previous interviews with us he hit out at an officer for inviting him to a spurious meeting and then leaving him at the mercy of two police officers. He has also been critical about the press departments and handling of the situation.

 

The full report can be read here.

Ibbs ““ A man on his way back?

Sometimes when you broadcast or write an article you often find yourself wondering whether you should be saying or writing what you are thinking ““ if you catch my drift.

Today is one of those days, I find myself thinking, oh dear this one isn’t going to go down too well.

But do you no what? When you have a certain strength of feeilng over an issue, or a comment that needs to be aired, you just have to go with the flow and let it all out.

This weeks revelations that were published in our local newspaper regarding the possible legal action taken by multi-million aire Mo Chaudry against Stoke-on-Trent City Council has robbed us of our opportunity to get the views of one of the most respected councillors, Dave Conway.

We have spoken to Dave and agreed that an interview now that lifts the political lid on this hot-potato issue regarding the attempted closure of the Dimensions splash pool, could probably compromise any pending legal action.

That said it is all down to the conscience of Mr Choudry whether he wants to extract money from the very city that he has spent years trying to convince people that he loves. He has an incredible life story, he has many experiences to share and he is a role model for the young and ambitious in our city. The comments left on the original Sentinel article certainly seem to point towards a negative view of Mo’s legal intentions. Strangely enough those telling comments have since been removed from the Sentinel web site.

The one character to emerge relatively unscathed in all this sleaze is also probably one of the most controversial but respected Councillors, Roger Ibbs.

Roger has certainly gone through the mill over the last year or so.

I remember reading comments left on both this site and on other sites speculating that Roger had taken a bung, or that their was some sort of financial corruption that involved him. A fair few of these comment were made by people in Trentham and were no doubt wishful thinking given Ibbs’s stance over the Trentham High issue.

Roger stood his ground over Trentham [so did Ross Irving] and he never wavered or backed down from his stance that Trentham should close and be re-built in another part of Trentham. Give him his due he still feels the same today,but for political intervention forced by Rob Flello MP he may have been proved right.

I doubt that Roger will ever get re-elected in the ward of Trentham and Hanford and that is cool because that is down to the electorate and they have the right to choose who represents them.

But over the Dimensions fiasco, when he was in the cabinet he fought to keep the popular facility open and he no doubt uncovered something that he felt was not quite right. He stood against what he believed was not right for our city and he spoke out, put his head above the parapet, and reported what he thought was outside the realms of acceptability.

He made the original complaint, an internal investigation promised. This then sparked a police investigation, his subsequent arrest and forced an abstention from the local political scene for a long period of time. During his absence, I was probably one of the few who kept in touch with him and probably had the inside track on what had gone down.

He was forced to look elsewhere for his enjoyment and he turned to football management. He runs his the Coors League side Vodafone Stoke. They are doing really well and have just made the last eight in a major non-league cup competition which could result in a final appearance played at Vale Park.

It seems obvious to me that his complete exoneration of any wrong doing relating to the political corruption scandal that rocked the very core of our City is imminent. Questions have to be asked about why there was a need to arrest Roger Ibbs. He was the original complainant and yet he was duped into going to non-existent meeting by a high ranking Council Officer and left in the lap of the gods and at the mercy of the Police.

His forced absence resulted in him reluctantly relinquishing his role as Leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance which meant that he was out of the running to be Council Leader. He was also forced to step down from the Conservatives, a party that he has supported for 30 years.

It is unreal that now, as more revelations emerge about this scandal, the only person that seems to have any restrictions hanging over them is Roger Ibbs.

The former Elected Mayor has confirmed that there was an intention to close the splash pool at Dimensions and that he supported the move. Yet in Labour Party meetings there was a constant denial that there was no more to this than the saving of a paltry £60k.

I welcome Mo Chaudry’s legal action only because it will out all of the facts that surround this issue. Better still would be an internal enquiry into the matter and I urge the incoming Chief Executive to take decisive action for the good of politics in this city that has been left tarnished in the wake of this issue.

But where next for Ibbsy?

I would urge Ross Irving to get the lad back into the Cabinet at the earliest convenience. Roger has a reputation for being firm and fair where officers are concerned. During my dealings with him as Portfolio Holder over Children & Young People Services he took the lead in all the meetings and above all he was accessible. He stuck to his guns over certain issues, unlike the present incumbent who supported the campaign to save Heathfield Special School and then when he was appointed to the Cabinet promptly signed it’s death warrant.

Roger Ibbs has one major fault and that is he is a Tory, [I say this as someone who has strong socialist leanings!] but in terms of political nous and as someone who knows all the in’s and outs of local government there isn’t many that can match him.

In this current period where there is a huge outcry against what is seen as officers leading politicians instead of the other way round, party politics should be put to one side and the chamber should unite. Yes I mean even the BNP, all need to come together to regain control.

For too long now the tail has wagged the dog and I’m sorry if it upsets certain people, particularly in Trentham, but Roger Ibbs is not only capable of attaching the leash, he is also able to lead the dog in a particular direction.

Let’s hope he gets the chance soon shall we? I suppose he could always try to become the next Sir Alex Ferguson”¦

Hang on, Fergie is a Labourite isn’t he?”¦.

Extraordinary Full Council Meeting Report ““ Part 2

The second main agenda item at extraordinary full council meeting of yesterday was the following motion which was proposed by Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley and seconded by Cllr Mick Salih. The motion read as follows:

“This Council deplores the lack of information regarding the absence of the Interim Chief Executive following the appointment on 29 September 2009 of the new Chief Executive, Mr John Laarschot, and the secrecy surrounding the issue and further totally opposed to the pay-off awarded to the Interim Chief Executive, Mr Chris Harman”

In introducing the motion to council Cllr Kent-Baguley informed other elected members present that this was not about the individual, it is about the fact that outside the Human Resources Committee, there were absolutely no details available relating to the absence and subsequent departure of the Interim Chief Executive. He had observed the HR committee meeting, but was not able to gleam the relevant information because he was not given access to the bundle of paper work provided to the HR Committee. He felt that this prevented him from scrutinising or understanding how this committee reached the decision that it eventually came to. PKB argued that the secrecy issue indicates that there is something seriously and radically wrong within the Authority. He pointed out that elected members were taking flack for the poor leadership of the Council. he deplored the lack of information given to non executive councillors who’s duty was to scrutinise the decisions of the council. He indicated that all was not well with the officers of the council and he cited to incident relating to the failure to increase car parking charges when the decision had been ratified by Full Council.

In seconding the motion Cllr Mick Salih highlighted the comments on media website relating to the coverage of the Interim Chief Executive’s position. He stated that the out-pouring of anger demonstrates how poor the issue had been handled in the view of the residents of the city. He urged the executive to move forward and not backward and stop stop all the secrecy surrounding the key issues and decisions that our facing the Council. He informed the chamber that not all parties were represented on the HR Committee and that it was not truly cross party. He questioned who had agreed the original Interim contract. He told the Council Leader to release all the information and remove all the secrecy if he wanted full support for the next budget that is due to be announced in the new year. He reminded the executive that this motion had the support of 22 councillors and he believed it would have been supported more if the councillors had been available at the time that the motion was submitted.

Council Leader Ross Irving hit out at PKB and said that he had been present at the HR Committee meeting as an observer and listened to the verbal advice given by one of the country’s leading employment lawyers. He informed the chamber the the HR committee was a statutory requirement and that because of the political balance it was not possible for all the groups on the council to be represented. He attacked what he described as the “Ëœmedia crucifiction’ of the Interim Chief Executive story. He attacked the Sentinel for the way the stories were written as they alluded to the fact that the Interim CE got more of a pay-off than he was entitled to, when what he received was 6months of his basic salary which was equivalent to his notice periods. He fully understood the public outcry but wanted to re-assure the residents of the city that the council acted on the best legal advice that was available. He stated that the HR committee rightly took time to deliberate on the decision and he was confident that they did what was right for the city and that the matter was handeld correctly. He accused PKB of puring oil in a river of troubled water regarding a difficult and sensitive issue.

Cllr Mike Barnes told those present in the chamber that he was glad that he did not have to sit on the HR committee. He reminded his fellow councillors that confidentiality on certain issues is essential. Barnes informed the council that the HR committee did have the right to co-opt other councillors with non-voting rights. He stated that this current issue goes way back to when the last Chief Executive departed the Authority. The panel that was set up were given a report with no Risk Assessments added and where previous Interim appointments had been made the applicants right to apply for the substantive post was removed. If this had happened in this issue the council would not be facing the outcry that it is at the moment.

Cllr Gavin Webb reminded the chamber that the amount of money paid to the Interim CE was the equivalent to 3 years salary to most people in the City of Stoke-on-Trent. He stated that the people out in the city were not happy with the amount of money paid out to the Interim CE with no apology. He is a firm believer of the facts that contracts are sacrosanct but he attacked the HR Department of the council for “Ëœmessing up’. He finished by telling the council leader that this pay off was an obscene amount of money.

Cllr Clive Bryan who is a member of the HR Committee stated that there was an open invitation to all members of the council to attend the meeting as an observer subject to them signing a secrecy clause. He told his fellow councillors that the HR committee was made up under the rules of the council constitution.

Cllr Alan Rigby informed the council that the public were under the mis-conception that all 60 councillors make the decisions in the council, when the real fact is that the vast majority are side-lined and had no vote on contentious decisions like the £2million paid in Serco pension contributions and the car parking issue etc. He stated that most of the councillors are frustrated by the systems of this officer led council.

Cllr Ann James told the Council Leader not to attack the media for the public anger at the way the issue has been handled. He said that councillors were getting it in the neck in their wards over this matter. She too was unhappy at the lack of information given to elected members, there were no briefings about the issue. Councillors are kept out of the loop. She informed the council that in her opinion nothing had changed since the Elected Mayor system.

Cllr Terry Follows attacked the BNP for jumping on the bandwagon as there representative on the HR committee voted against the pay off even though the legal advice was clear as to the entitlement due to the Interim CE. He reminded the councillors that they were all responsible for the finances of the city. He stated that the fact was the HR committee had saved the city money not cost it money. He was confident that they had done the right thing for the residents of the city.

Cllr Roger Ibbs told the chamber that this issue was not a matter for all 60 councillors. The HR committee had been delegated powers to act and they had done the best deal that they could have done based on the specialised advice given to them. He reminded the councillors that the HR committed had a duty of care to the Interim CE as an employee of the council. He said he had every confidence that the HR committee has done the right thing. He attacked Cllr Alan Joynson for his comments in the press relating to the issue and for using the matter as an excuse to have a go at Council Leader Ross Irving and Chris Harman. He stated that a contract of employment should not be discussed in public and he reminded all councillors that when they sign on as a councillor they are bound to keep confidential matters confidential.

Cllr Mohammed Pervez informed the council that he had every sympathy with the public feeling over the matter, but he believed that the motion is redundant because of the necessity for confidentiality. He stated that the whole of the Labour Group was not satisfied with all the information that was given in relation to this issue. He felt that prolong the debate on this matter would not achieve anything and he urged the council to move on to other matter.

Cllr Dave Conway give the HR committee his vote of confidence as they were appointed by the council to handle such matters. But he found it frustrating that he can’t divulge why such a pay off was agreed to the public due to confidentiality. He posed the question of why it was reported in the media that the Interim CE was absent due to illness and then it was also reported that the Interim CE had claimed that his position was untenable, which was the real truth?

The Chair of the HR Committee Paul Shotton paid tribute to his committee. He said that they had delegated powers to act on behalf of all 60 councillors. He totally refuted that the officers of the Council HR Department had made a mistake with this issue. He reminded the chamber of the fact that Chris Harman deserved to be treated the same as every other employee of the council. He also revealed that it was Chris Harman who agreed to making the sum of money he received public. He also informed the council that the legal advice they had received should only be extended to members of the HR Committee. He confirmed that his committee had done the best job that they could for the city in what were difficult circumstances.

In summing up Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley dismissed claims that he had used the issue to have a go at the Leadership and he attacked Cllr Follows for his amazing turn around given that he had no trust in the old EMB and officers when he was fighting for Trentham High School. He accused the executive of operating a bunker mentality. He questioned the current rules and stated that the public are all grown up, intelligent and clued up and deserved more information. He called for total openness and transparency. He reminded the chamber of the need to develop a robust local policy that engages with the residents and treats them with respect. He said he was under the impression that thing would change with the removal of the Elected Mayor system and he pleaded with the council leader to make that change happen.

This motion was lost. There were 19 for and 27 against.

Ibbs lifts the lid: the future for a councillor smeared by corruption claims [Video]

By Pits’n’Pots Team in association with Stoke’s number one film company, Junction 15 Video Productions.

Roger Ibbs

Roger Ibbs

An ‘In Conversation’ Special – Tony Walley Speaks exclusively to Roger Ibbs

We are pleased to introduce the first of our video interviews produced with Junction15 video productions.

You will hear about the effect that the period after being arerested in relation to the council corruption case had on Roger’s life both professionally and privately. And we learn about the day of his arrest, who supported him but more importantly who did not.

We hear his thoughts about the way the council executive and communications department handled the affair.

Also, Roger tells us about his plans for the future, his reflections on Trentham High and lifts the lid on those on the ‘EMB2′.

We welcome your opinions.

UPDATED NEWS STORY! – Wanger Resigns Committee Chair

UPDATED 20/09/2009 – Lee Wanger Speaks Out!

By Tony Walley.

Yesterday Councillor Lee Wanger resigned as chair of the Transformation and Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee as well as Staffordshire Fire Authority.

Talking exclusively to Pits’n’Pots Cllr Lee Wanger made the following statement:

“I would like to pass comment on the news of my resignation as chair of the council’s Transformation and Resources Committee and from my place on Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority. I have always made it known that I would not always be a member of the Conservative and Independent Alliance (CIA). Many times in Politics different groups get together to form alliances for their mutual benefit. The council’s current cabinet is an alliance of there different groups. The question has been when would be the best time to make this split. When this split occurs I would loose these positions anyway because of political balance. Not wishing to have people believing that I was delaying this split in order to keep the allowances that go with these positions (no one goes into politics for the money) I decided that it was time to step down from these positions. Doing it now does have other benefits. Roger Ibbs is probably the most experienced and capable politician on the council, I have the utmost respect for his ability and believe that he should be in the cabinet. For whatever reason, Ross Irving believes that he can’t do this at the moment. By my resignation and my place being taken by Roger Ibbs his talents will be out to good use and not be wasted. With regards to the Fire Authority, it has been well documented that following May’s county elections the Conservatives took overall control of the Fire Authority and both the chair and vicechair were taken by conservative county councillors. They did this because there were no stoke conservative on the authority. This ended years of unwritten agreement and been a source of concern for stoke councillors. By Roger Ibbs taking my position on the Fire Authority, I hope that the county councillors will be happy with Roger Ibbs and offer him the vicechair and so restore this unbalance. Lee Wanger”

Talking exclusively to Pits’n’Pots Roger Ibbs said: “Cllr Lee Wanger has done a first class job on these committees”

Roger Ibbs

Roger Ibbs

“I am really looking forward to being involved in the scrutiny of the councils finances”

Rogers’s appointment will not go down well with the people of Trentham, but there is no doubting that he has the expertise and experience needed to scrutinise one of the darkest hours in our public finances with a budget deficit of some £17million.

Rumours have circulated for some time regarding an imminent split in the CIA group on Stoke-on-Trent Council, yet Lee Wanger, despite his resignations, remains for the time being, in the Conservative and Independent Alliance.

Just one business benefits from council ‘credit crunch’ help!

Comment By Tony Walley.

It has been revealed today that just one business benefited from a City Council scheme aimed at helping local companies affected by this pandemic economic downturn.

Port Vale is that sole company. They were given a 2 year payment holiday on a outstanding business

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

loan by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The Scheme was announced in February of this year following a furious row in the council chamber.

The motion was proposed by Joy Garner and seconded by Roger Ibbs and it called for a number of different measures including, action be taken to support the local economy by undertaking a review of the terms and conditions of contracts, leases, and debts of local businesses. This could result in commercial arrangements with the council being adjusted to help local businesses which are suffering financial hardship. Where necessary this could include:

“¢Ã‚ Applying rent freezes
“¢Ã‚ Re-scheduling repayment terms
“¢Ã‚ Varying repayment conditions on commercial debts
“¢Ã‚ Deferring capital repayments on secured debts

Alby Walker [BNP] tabled an amendment which asked for councillors to be informed which companies sought help and wanted commercially sensitive information to be made available to councillors. This amendment was defeated.

There was another amendment tabled by Peter Kent-Baguley asking for a deferment of any decision until a more detailed report was undertaken by officers and brought back to the chamber. This amendment was also defeated due to the massive delay it would have caused in getting help to vulnerable businesses.

Roger Ibbs told the chamber that he was aware of a company locally that could go out of business with the loss of 200 jobs if this motion was lost and the company were unable to access help that would be offered by the City Council at no cost to the taxpayer or council. This company must have been the Stoke North football club as it has been revealed that just one business benefited from this help.

The argument in the chamber at the time centred on the fact that certain councillors wanted sensitive company information laid out in front of  every single councillor, instead of allowing certain officers the sole discretion in dealing with the large number of company expected to approach the council for help during this most difficult trading period.

What a tragedy it would be if this argument in the chamber, which incidentally led to a mass walk out by the BNP and other councillors, put off companies who were in genuine need of financial help.

I am and always have been all for councillor scrutiny of officer decisions but the BNP and other councillor actually wanted the companies financial details shared out in the public arena that is the council chamber.

It is no surprise to me that just one needy company sought help from this well meaning scheme.

Maybe this should serve as a reminder to those councillors who played to the gallery that day, particularly the BNP councillors, for they clearly showed their true colours and lack of understanding the way companies are managed.

Ah well, this is Stoke after all, and the evidence suggests another well meaning scheme bites the dust……..

Wol on the coalition, the opposition & the power of the people!

By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Isn’t it strange how, in a short space of time, politics can change!

Prior to the local Council Leadership election, the City Independent Group appeared to be the most cohesive, structured and loyal political group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council. But now it seems that this group of ‘independents’ are working independently of each other and in doing so a massive split has appeared.
There are rumours abound that there may well be a mutiny or at the very least a fragmentation of the group.
The CIG members who sit on the cabinet are being accused of what they themselves accused members of the EMB of, that is nodding through the leaders policies.
There is true venom being vented at Brian Ward, Terry Follows and Ian Mitchell, less so against Derek Capey, but then again he has a relatively safe portfolio.
It was a sight I never thought I would witness, John Davies verbally attacking Terry Follows in an open public forum and accusing him of  being a ‘turn coat’.
The same for Ian Mitchell who is the talk of the chamber for changing his stance on the BSF proposals and in particular his views on closing Heathfield Special School.  He was originally completely opposed to the closing of this special facility.
On Wednesday he signed off the closure without a second glance. So what exactly has changed? One councillor who shall remain nameless said to me ‘I don’t know how he sleeps at night, one minute he is running around trying to get support for Heathfield and then bang! He is on the cabinet and Heathfield is no longer important!’
This coalition is very close to crumbling. There are talks of Lee Wangers group along with Roger Ibbs walking away from the Tories and when you factor in the unrest in the CIG, things indeed look very volatile!
There are also talks about the tabling of a vote of no-confidence in Council Leader Ross Irving. I think this is very premature. Mind you he may need another lieutenant [or maybe a Sgt. Major] on the cabinet – enter stage left Roger Ibbs!
To his credit Labour Group Leader Mike Barnes also thinks it is way too soon for a no-confidence vote in Ross Irving. Anyone who witnessed the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday and witnessed the performance of Paul Shotton and Mike Barnes could not have been anything less than impressed.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ross backed the wrong horse to go into a coalition with and he must be regretting his unwillingness to try and form a coalition that included members of the Labour Group. He is now reaping what he has sowed and is facing a constant, balanced, structured opposition.
The Labour Group under Barnes is renewed, re-vitalised and hungry, they seize every opportunity to scrutinise and dissect every decision that the leader and cabinet make. The formation of a shadow cabinet is a master stroke. Councillors like Tom Reynolds and Mark Davis along with Shotton and Pervez are enjoying a freedom to express themselves. You only have to look at the press release about Meir North which contained the comments made by Tom Reynolds questioning the statement made by cabinet member John Daniels. The reaction that the article attracted on this site demonstrates that the Labour Group are raising their game.
John Daniels never replied to the comments and left Tom Reynolds unchallenged, Labour are becoming more politically savvy.
The Labour Group along with other councillors that do not sit on the cabinet are committed from seizing power and major decision making from the Interim Chief Executive and his officers. After all, it is councillors we vote for and it is them that we hold accountable for what goes right and what goes wrong in our city.
I remember an EMB meeting once where Joy Garner [the then Labour Group Leader] told members of the Trentham Action Group that they ought to shut up and learn something. Now that Joy has rejoined the Labour Group along with Joan Bell, you never know, if she observes the way things are now – she might just learn something too!
Labour must be seizing the initiative, just where is the voice of the BNP? They are getting a real lesson in the art of opposition!
What a shame that there continues to be cross parliamentary sniping among the three Labour constituencies. The chief protagonists seem to be the Stoke Central Labour Party who have now rejected the City Labour Party which was set up to drive policy and select suitable candidates. It appears that the City Labour Party have rejected the Stoke Central delegate Mick Williams. This has let to a furious reaction by the Central gang and it appears that they are determined to go there own way, lock, stock & two smoking barrels! Sources have indicated that the desire to reject Mick goes all the way to the regional party. It will be interesting to observe the comings and goings over the next few months particularly as the selection of candidates to fight the 2010 elections is very near.
I’m glad to say that people power is well and truly back!
Congratulations go to Mrs Sharon Black who presented a petition to the last full councill meeting complaining in the strongest terms that Renew had renaged on a deal to refurbish the properties left in Middleport that had not been demolished. They had constantly stated that they were committed to carrying out the refurbishments until a short time ago.
Brian Ward, portfolio holder for regeneration had said in a press statement that some properties in the Middleport area had been refurbished.
This led to Mrs Blacks petition, which she delivered with passion, intelligence and sincerity. At the council meeting it was obvious that Brian Ward had been mis-informed and he promised to look into the matter.
Today it was announced that these residents of Middleport would get their homes refurbished after all. Some 160 homes will get new windows, doors,walls and drains. These residents will get the work done some 6-8 years after Renew had originally promised.
Well done Brian Ward for ensuring that Renew made good their pledges and well done Sharon Black who has proved that we the people have the power. All we need to do is to learn how to use it the right way!
Right I’m off to celebrate the start of the football season, by watching the golf on Sky Sports after all it is the USPGA y’know?
Have a restful weekend…………..

Wol on the coalition, opposition & the power of the people!

Isn’t it strange how, in a short space of time, politics can change!

Prior to the local Council Leadership election, the City Independent Group appeared to be the most cohesive, structured and loyal political group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council. But now it seems that this group of ‘independents’ are working independently of each other and in doing so a massive split has appeared.

There are rumours abound that there may well be a mutiny or at the very least a fragmentation of the group.

The CIG members who sit on the cabinet are being accused of what they themselves accused members of the EMB of, that is nodding through the leaders policies.

There is true venom being vented at Brian Ward, Terry Follows and Ian Mitchell, less so against Derek Capey, but then again he has a relatively safe portfolio.

It was a sight I never thought I would witness, John Davies verbally attacking Terry Follows in an open public forum and accusing him of being a ‘turn coat’.

The same for Ian Mitchell who is the talk of the chamber for changing his stance on the BSF proposals and in particular his views on closing Heathfield Special School. He was originally completely opposed to the closing of this special facility.

On Wednesday he signed off the closure without a second glance. So what exactly has changed? One councillor who shall remain nameless said to me ‘I don’t know how he sleeps at night, one minute he is running around trying to get support for Heathfield and then bang! He is on the cabinet and Heathfield is no longer important!’

This coalition is very close to crumbling. There are talks of Lee Wangers group along with Roger Ibbs walking away from the Tories and when you factor in the unrest in the CIG, things indeed look very volatile!

There are also talks about the tabling of a vote of no-confidence in Council Leader Ross Irving. I think this is very premature. Mind you he may need another lieutenant [or maybe a Sgt. Major] on the cabinet – enter stage left Roger Ibbs!

To his credit Labour Group Leader Mike Barnes also thinks it is way too soon for a no-confidence vote in Ross Irving. Anyone who witnessed the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday and witnessed the performance of Paul Shotton and Mike Barnes could not have been anything less than impressed.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ross backed the wrong horse to go into a coalition with and he must be regretting his unwillingness to try and form a coalition that included members of the Labour Group. He is now reaping what he has sowed and is facing a constant, balanced, structured opposition.

The Labour Group under Barnes is renewed, re-vitalised and hungry, they seize every opportunity to scrutinise and dissect every decision that the leader and cabinet make. The formation of a shadow cabinet is a master stroke. Councillors like Tom Reynolds and Mark Davis along with Shotton and Pervez are enjoying a freedom to express themselves. You only have to look at the press release about Meir North which contained the comments made by Tom Reynolds questioning the statement made by cabinet member John Daniels. The reaction that the article attracted on this site demonstrates that the Labour Group are raising their game.

John Daniels never replied to the comments and left Tom Reynolds unchallenged, Labour are becoming more politically savvy.

The Labour Group along with other councillors that do not sit on the cabinet are committed from seizing power and major decision making from the Interim Chief Executive and his officers. After all, it is councillors we vote for and it is them that we hold accountable for what goes right and what goes wrong in our city.

I remember an EMB meeting once where Joy Garner [the then Labour Group Leader] told members of the Trentham Action Group that they ought to shut up and learn something. Now that Joy has rejoined the Labour Group along with Joan Bell, you never know, if she observes the way things are now – she might just learn something too!

Labour must be seizing the initiative, just where is the voice of the BNP? They are getting a real lesson in the art of opposition!

What a shame that there continues to be cross parliamentary sniping among the three Labour constituencies. The chief protagonists seem to be the Stoke Central Labour Party who have now rejected the City Labour Party which was set up to drive policy and select suitable candidates. It appears that the City Labour Party have rejected the Stoke Central delegate Mick Williams. This has let to a furious reaction by the Central gang and it appears that they are determined to go there own way, lock, stock & two smoking barrels! Sources have indicated that the desire to reject Mick goes all the way to the regional party. It will be interesting to observe the comings and goings over the next few months particularly as the selection of candidates to fight the 2010 elections is very near.

I’m glad to say that people power is well and truly back!

Congratulations go to Mrs Sharon Black who presented a petition to the last full council meeting complaining in the strongest terms that Renew had reneged on a deal to refurbish the properties left in Middleport that had not been demolished. They had constantly stated that they were committed to carrying out the refurbishments until a short time ago.

Brian Ward, portfolio holder for regeneration had said in a press statement that some properties in the Middleport area had been refurbished.

This led to Mrs Blacks petition, which she delivered with passion, intelligence and sincerity. At the council meeting it was obvious that Brian Ward had been mis-informed and he promised to look into the matter.

Today it was announced that these residents of Middleport would get their homes refurbished after all. Some 160 homes will get new windows, doors,walls and drains. These residents will get the work done some 6-8 years after Renew had originally promised.

Well done Brian Ward for ensuring that Renew made good their pledges and well done Sharon Black who has proved that we the people have the power. All we need to do is to learn how to use it the right way!

Right I’m off to celebrate the start of the football season, by watching the golf on Sky Sports after all it is the USPGA y’know?

Have a restful weekend…………..

Corruption Charges Dropped

By Pits n Pots Reporter

scales of justice

scales of justice

Mark Meredith, Councillor Roger Ibbs, and  businessman Mo Chaudry have today been informed that they will not face charges after the Staffordshire Police investigation in to alleged corruption.

Staffordshire Police have stated that the CPS have told them there is no realistic prospect of a conviction based on the evidence from the investigation.

All three men no longer have to answer Police bail and the investigation is now closed.

Councillor Roger Ibbs who made the initial complaint about the proposed closure of Dimensions  is currently out of the country on holiday, but has contacted Pits n Pots and given

Roger Ibbs

Roger Ibbs

us the following statement:

“I have maintained my innocence throughout the police investigation and I am pleased that it has been established that there is no case to answer on my part.  I would like to add that my life has been thrown in to turmoil over the past 3 months. Many people have questioned my innocence but I knew from the start that I had done nothing wrong.” He went on to say, “I am now looking forward to getting back down to business and playing a full and active role in council when I return from holiday.  I am relieved that this matter is now over and done with.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have released the following press statement:

Stoke-on-Trent City Council notes the Crown Prosecution Service decision that
the evidence they have is not sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of
conviction.  We are grateful to Staffordshire Police for the thorough way it has
carried out the investigation.

Given the seriousness of the issues raised by the internal inquiry into the
proposed closure of Dimensions, the council believes it acted correctly in seeking
external legal advice. The council's external legal advisers referred the matter to
the police.

We are now considering whether any issues surrounding these inquiries need to be referred to
the council's standards committee. As a result we cannot comment
further on the detail of these inquiries.

Wol on the week!

Comment By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Well let me start by saying something that some of you will not like!

I like Ross Irving and I think if he is given a chance, he will make a very good council leader.

I also like and have respect for Roger Ibbs and I’m sorry that he isn’t able to be considered for a cabinet position.

Now, that may go down as well as a fart in a space suit to the people of Trentham, but it’s time to look to the future and what’s best for our city and an administration with Irving and Ibbs is no bad thing.

I don’t base this judgement on politics, I base it on their capabilities and their years of experience. If as expected Ibbs is given the all clear I fully expect him to return to a full and active role in the council and I would not at all be surprised to see him in the cabinet very shortly after.

Irving and Ibbs are very unpopular in the ward they were elected to represent, there is no doubt about that! There is very little hope of them being elected the next time there is a local election but they have a chance of repairing some of the collateral damage to their careers in the next two years before the public have the chance to have their say via the ballot box.

There are many calls for an election next year. Some people are feeling robbed at being denied their chance of having their say in who does or does not represent them.

I can truly understand this stance, and I have every sympathy with this view. But equally I can see the other side of the argument.

We have just seen the dawn of a new political system for our city and 1 year is absolutely no time to make a difference to the way this city has been run. For that reason alone I support the 2011 elections. Boundary changes aside, this city needs a period of calm, and when we chose to rid this city of the mayoral system we have to accept that no new administration would have the chance of sowing the seeds of regeneration and recovery and then watching the seeds flourish.

For the most part I like the make up of the new cabinet and I think Ross chose wisely.

John Daniels [Housing] is a great choice. I have known John for a few years and anyone who has seen him in the council chamber can see the intelligence and charisma he possesses. He is also humorous, a characteristic he will need when he comes up against some of the clowns down at the civic.

Hazel Lyth is a safe pair of hands and has proved that she puts a lot into her duties.

The Silver Fox, Brian Ward will be excellent in Regeneration. He has a real passion to see the city develop. This came across in the interviews that I have done with him.

Ian Mitchell is an unknown quantity to me but as an ex teacher he will have a grip on Education and it will be interesting to see how he handles the Serco issue.

Terry Follows [Communities] is a quite brilliant choice. Terry has a rare skill in that he can converse to all people regardless of race or religion. He is well respected within the Asian community and to the good folk of Trentham he is quite simply their own peoples champion. I expect that we will see great work from Terry.
I admit the Joy Garner appointment completely threw me, never saw that one coming!

Neither did the Labour Group from what I hear. Some very, very unhappy people in that group I can tell you.

It will look to some that she has sold her party out for the leer of the cabinet dollar. I don’t actually believe that she defected and joined the cabinet for the money. Anyone who knows Joy will tell you that she is a very principled lady. It is no secret that she did not see eye to eye with Mike Barnes and this is probably the reason that she decided to leave the Labour Group. Once she was out and she was approached by Ross she must have thought well I have held that portfolio for 4 years so I may as well carry on doing the job. To be fair she did do a good job in the the role of portfolio holder for the environment.

Joy is out on a limb now, she will probably get suspended from the Labour Party. Above all though Joy has to learn how to deal with the public. Her PR skills need working on because they are a nightmare!  She must learn not to seem as if she is patronising members of the public.

I have had my issues with Joy and currently there is no dialogue between us, but I tell you this, she loves this city and it’s people. She does a tremendous amount of work in her ward and she is liked and respected by the people who come to her for assistance. I have always liked her as a person but sometimes she drives me mad how she rubs people up the wrong way. One to one she is lovely to talk to, but the sight of her addressing the public at the EMB used to make me cringe and shake my head in disbelief at what I was hearing.

One thing that does disturb me is that I have heard that Cabinet meeting are going to be more stage managed than the past EMB meetings.

Sources have told me that non cabinet councillors will not be allowed to verbally ask questions at the public cabinet meetings. It appears that councillors will have to submit questions in writing. Apparently this is to avoid the “bear pit” atmosphere of some of the past EMB meetings.

If this information is correct, it stinks of being an officer decision. I hope Ross does not go down this road. If he does all his hard work at appointing a diverse and unified cabinet could come undone. I wonder sometimes who is responsible for thinking these ‘no brain engaged’ ideas up. Whoever it is I hope he or she lands another job in another authority and follows the line of uncommitted officers OUT of Stoke-on-Trent!

I appeal to Ross to ignore this ludicrous idea and find another way of making sure these cabinet meetings don’t descend into chaos. A novel way of doing this is to actually listen and take on board the issues and ideas of the councillors who were elected to represent us the public. Of course no one expects you to agree with the normal councillors all the time, but being seen to ignore and to not listen and take on board suggestions is disrespectful and arrogant and I’m sure Ross and his new cabinet are neither of these……… are they?

This idea of written questions is divisive and inflammatory and would be an instant return to the same old, same old!

Just for once can we not have an ‘onwards and upwards’ approach to unity and each other?

Well I’m off to mow the lawn, weed the borders and to hit my golf ball round Leek Golf Club in the least amount of shots as possible!

Here’s hoping for a sunny weekend………….