Green Flags All Round For City

Stoke-on-Trent City Council boasts three Green Flag sites across the city in three of its cemeteries.

Carmountside Cemetery and Crematorium has been awarded a Green Flag for the third year running. Fenton and Burslem Cemeteries have retained their Green Flags for the second consecutive year.

The Green Flag award is the national standard for parks and green spaces, and recognises and rewards the best. Winners must meet eight criteria and prove that they provide a well managed and maintained space for the local community. Winners range from country parks, urban parks, nature gardens and cemeteries.

The award means these cemeteries are able to fly their Green Flags on their grounds, to show the high standard they have achieved over the past 12 months compared to other green spaces and parks around the country. The Green Flag at Carmountside will be raised by Councillor Terry Follows on Wednesday 28 July at 2.00pm.

Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for environment, waste management and neighbourhood services, said:

“All three of our cemeteries maintain a high standard when it comes to their appearance and the cleanliness.

“The Green Flags also reward the diligence of our staff who work hard throughout the year to make sure that the cemeteries provide a comforting and colourful appearance to everyone who visits them.

“The Green Flag awards are something that we should all be proud of.”

Free Swimming Continues For Another Month Thanks To Bakery Donation

Youngsters in Stoke will be able to benefit from free swimming in all the city’s pools for a further month despite the scheme being discontinued by Central Government.

An extra £5000 of funding has been donated to Stoke-on-Trent City Council by family baker Warburton’s meaning under 16′s will be able to swim for free until August 30.

The city council and the bakery will be officially announcing the programme on Monday 26 July at Fenton Manor Sports Complex.

Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for adult social care, sport, leisure and culture, said:

“This is fantastic news, and means that young people within the city get a chance to carry on swimming for free for another month.

“That may not sound like much, but each day makes a huge difference for the individual young person, and means we have a little longer to try and help people of that age live a healthy lifestyle.

“We always said it would be difficult for us to continue to fund the free swimming programme for under 16′s by ourselves if it was ever cancelled, and Warburton’s generous donation will allow us to maintain the project until September.

“This is a great example of what be can be achieved when local businesses really engage with the communities in which they are based. We hope that Warburton’s example may encourage more of the private sector to work in partnership with us to benefit the city.”

Mike Ewing, Warburton’s Area Commercial Manager for the Midlands, said:

“As a company we try to give something back to the communities within which we operate and support groups that are struggling to raise cash to carry on.

“When we heard about the lack of funding for the sessions in Stoke we were keen to help out. Swimming is popular with children of all ages and there’s no doubt that it’s beneficial to their health ““ we hope this donation means everything can go ahead as planned.”

Athletes Arrive In Stoke-on-Trent For Special Olympics

Nearly 200 athletes from across the West Midlands will be competing in the North Staffordshire Special Olympics Regional Athletics Competition this weekend.

Taking place on Saturday 17 July from 10am -5pm at Northwood Stadium, the event features some of the best Special Olympians from across the region as they compete in athletic disciplines including sprinting, 100m, 200m, 300m, pentathlon, long jump, softball throw and shot-put. There are 45 athletes representing the North Staffordshire group in the competition.

The North Staffordshire Special Olympics sporting programme includes athletics, basketball, badminton, kayaking, swimming and football.

The Staffordshire group’s aim is to provide year round sports training and competition for people with learning disabilities, giving them the chance to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and participate in sharing of skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

The event is free to attend, with guests of honour including Lord Mayor Councillor Denver Tolley and the Lady Mayoress, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire Sir James Hawley, representatives from Staffordshire Fire Service and Staffordshire Police, Robert Flello MP, Tristram Hunt MP, and the city council’s cabinet member for Adult Social Care, Leisure and Culture Hazel Lyth.

Councillor Lyth said:

“We are so proud that Northwood can host this event and that we are able to offer all the athletes a first class facility for them to use.

“It’s important to recognise the contribution sport makes in the community as a way of bringing people together and encouraging them to stay fit and healthy.

“The Special Olympics group do a tremendous amount of hard work to allow people to experience sport in a positive way, learn new skills and build their confidence. The fact that athletes are coming from all over the West Midlands to compete shows that Stoke-on-Trent is a key part of supporting that success.”

Jet pays tribute to local employer’s commitment

The commitment of a North Staffordshire employer to taking on local people has been officially recognised by an innovative employment scheme.

The Jet Business team has presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Accord Care and Support to acknowledge their support in helping long-term unemployed people get into work.

Accord have already taken on four Jet clients at Meir’s Rowan Village and Knutton’s Millrise sheltered housing complexes, with the possibility of more opportunities on the horizon.

Jenny Mullinder, manager of Millrise explained:

“We were introduced to Jet through Staffordshire Housing Association and their aim of placing long term unemployed people into work sat very well with our commitment to corporate social responsibility.

“In the care sector we need staff with the right personal qualities and Jet clients, who have often been at home bringing up a family or caring for relatives, have skills that transfer very well into our work environment.

“The Jet clients went through our normal interview procedure and performed really well ““ and we will certainly be continuing to work with Jet Business with a view to sourcing more staff.”

Lindsay Mitchell, Jet Business Employment Broker added:

“The Jet scheme has had incredible results in getting thousands of local unemployment people into training or jobs in North Staffordshire thanks to our joined-up approach to recruitment, training and liaison with employers.

“Many local businesses have given us great support, especially Accord who were our first client in the care sector.

“They recognised the value of giving a chance to people who may have little work experience but have the qualities and skills that make them an asset in a business environment.

“We now work with more than 100 local businesses to support their recruitment needs and we are working with a number of organisations to ensure local people have the right training to give them the best possible chance of securing employment.”

Debbie Whalley of Burslem was unemployed for 15 years after finishing work to bring up her family. At 48 she was unsure how to get back into work and went along to a Jet open day at Port Vale Football Club.

Having cared for her family she knew she had good skills which she hoped would translate into the work environment. Debbie said:

“Looking after people appealed to me and Jet helped me to have more confidence, gave me training and helped me believe I could get a job. I had been for other jobs but Jet trained me in interview techniques and put me forward for this job.

“At first I was covering maternity leave, then they took me on as a permanent carer. I love the job and it’s great to be working.”

For more information on Jet visit www.jet2work.

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Joy Garner Shows Commitment To The Cause.

Cllr Joy Garner has struck a blow for those who seek openness and transparency when she rejected plans for the debate on the use of the consultancy company Vanguard to be heard in secret.

Cllr Garner is the Chair of the Transformation and Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
A meeting of that committee is to hear the call in notice at 12.30pm today and Pits n Pots will bring you a report on the matter later.

Although Cllr Garner has issued the following statement:

“As chair of the committee, I feel it is right that this meeting should be open to the public. It is my view that this process should be as open and transparent as possible, and I shall be asking the committee to agree to move the item regarding Vanguard into the open part of the agenda.”

The council website still has the call in listed as a “ËœClosed Agenda Item’ and as a result there is no report or details of the call in notice listed.

The matter has caused outrage among some councillors because the controversial plans to spend some £400,000 paying consultants to make council budget cuts appears to have by-passed the regular tendering procedures.

There are concerns that the eventual cost could reach as high as £4million but at a recent Cabinet Meeting assurances were given that any further financial commitment would have to be brought before the executive for approval. Any future Cabinet decision on this matter is subject to the usual Overview and Scrutiny process.

Read our comprehensive report on the meeting later…..

Southampton Street Pastor To Be Next Bishop of Stafford

A Southampton priest, who combines his parish role with a chaplaincy to the Mayflower Theatre and a Street Pastor in the south-coast port city, is to be the next Bishop of Stafford.

The appointment of the Revd Canon Geoff Annas was announced today by 10 Downing Street. He succeeds the Rt Revd Gordon Mursell who was forced to retire early on health grounds.

To mark the announcement, the bishop-designate was today embarking on a whirl-wind tour of his new Episcopal Area, which is larger than many dioceses.

He will begin his tour with a visit to Dovedale House, the Diocese of Lichfield’s youth centre in Ilam in the Staffordshire Moorlands; before moving to the County Town for the Staffordshire County Show. While there he will meet the President and Chairman of the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society, the former national hunt jockey Johnny Greenall and farmer Michael Shelley.

He will then move to East Staffordshire with a visit to Burton Albion FC. He will tour the Brewer’s Pirelli Stadium before heading to Stoke for a visit which panders to his love of the theatre. The new bishop and his wife will tread the boards at the City’s Regent Theatre and meet some of the back-stage crew who make the magic of the theatre possible.

Geoff Annas was born on the 29th November 1953. His wife Ann is an ophthalmologist. They have two grown up children.

He is currently Vicar of St Christopher’s Thornhill, Southampton. In addition to this he is Actors’ Church Union Chaplain of the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, a Canon of Winchester Cathedral and assistant Area Dean of Southampton. As Area Dean in addition to thinking through pastoral re-organisations, he has overseen the establishment of the Southampton Street Pastor scheme and chairs its management committee; and does a monthly duty as a Street Pastor.

Prior to theological training at Salisbury and Wells and his ordination in 1983, Geoff was a senior social worker with Surrey County Council with a specialism in fostering and adoption. He was assistant intake team leader dealing with family crisis, non-accidental injury, mental health issues and vulnerable adults. He supervised team members and students and prepared and presented court reports.

Commenting on his appointment, he said:

“I have to be honest in that on hearing I was going to be the new Bishop of Stafford I was quite overawed, really. It is a huge responsibility, a great privilege; but also it is really exciting because, although I don’t know the area very much I’m looking forward to getting to know it and certainly getting to know all the people there ““ particularly the clergy but the communities as well. I hope I have something to offer and I’m looking forward to discovering it.

“I think the key issues on taking up office will be to get out of the office! What I really want to do is to get to know the people and the issues they are coping with in their day to day lives. Obviously I have a general knowledge of the area but it’s very different when you’re living there. So I want to spend a lot of time listening and seeing out how the church relates to people in their situations.”

His current bishop, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, is himself a previous Bishop of Stafford. Geoff Annas commented:

“Bishop Michael has been very good in that until a public announcement has been made he and I have not discussed it at all. However, I have said to him that when it becomes public knowledge, today, I’d very much like to go and have a cup of coffee with him and get the low-down on Stafford. He said he would be delighted to tell me all about it. What he has said is that it is a wonderful place and he was very happy as Bishop of Stafford. He’s quite thrilled that somebody from Winchester should be going there.”

He said the secrecy about the appointment leading up to today’s announcement was extremely difficult; but says it has helped him to understand the need to tell others about the Good News of the Gospel. He said:

“I’ve actually known for some months now that my name was going to be put forward but of course until the Prime Minister has passed that name to Her Majesty The Queen and she has signed giving her permission nothing is definite.

“As Bishop Jonathan in Lichfield described it when he said he was putting my name forward, it was entering a long tunnel; and it has been a long tunnel. Apart from the bishop here, Bishop Michael, there has been no-one that we have been able to share this with; so it hasn’t been easy. But what it has taught me is that if something is really, really special then actually you’re bursting to tell other people about it and it’s quite hard when you can’t tell people.

“So what I am hoping is that when I get to Stafford and as I get around I will find people who are desperate to tell others about the love God has for them. That telling of others is a very special thing and perhaps something we sometimes take for granted. It will be good to see how other people are hearing about the love of God in the Staffordshire area.”

Canon Geoff Annas will be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury with other bishops from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion during a special service in Westminster Abbey on 21st September. He will be officially begin his new role when he is installed in Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 26th September.

He will leave his current parish of St Christopher’s Thornhill after a weekend of celebrations, from 23rd to 25th July, to mark the 50th anniversary of its founding as a parish and the 40th anniversary of the church building.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Want Your Views On Christmas Working

With only 212 days to go until Christmas is upon us once more, the City Council are asking for your views on which services are available over the festive period.

At the moment only certain services are open such as waste collection, residential care and mortuary services. Officers are on-call for emergencies such as dangerous structures and pest control.

You might want the council to open the libraries, the museums and Local Centres or you may have your own views.

A council spokesman said, ‘It’s our job to serve the people of Stoke-on-Trent the best way we can over the Christmas holidays. This is an opportunity for our customers to tell us just what services they want to see provided.’

What services would you like to have available over Christmas & New Year?

Send your views & ideas by E-mail to communications@stoke.gov.uk or you can write to:
Christmas Working,
Communications,
Stoke-on-Trent City Council,
Floor 4
Civic Centre
ST4 1RN

Or maybe leave a comment below

Service Pays Tribute to Former Stoke-on-Trent Firefighter

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s oldest former firefighter, Bob Whitby has passed away at the age of 103.

Bob, who served at Hanley and Burslem fire stations between 1926 and 1962, sadly passed away on Thursday 13th May.

An act of remembrance was observed at the AGM of The Staffordshire Branch of The National Association of Retired Firefighters held earlier this week. The family have also agreed to a full fire and rescue service funeral to honour Bob and so the Service’s Ceremonial Squad will be in attendance.

Retired Assistant Divisional Officer, Malcolm Botham said:

“Bob had been an active member of our retired network for many years and he will be remembered for his remarkable memory of his time with the Service. He will be greatly missed by all those who met him and remembered with much admiration and respect.”

Bob’s son, Gerry Whitby said:

“My father was a man of few words, who was studious, thorough and offered guidance, when asked. He was much admired and very modest. Our family were extremely proud of his achievements, in his career, his hobbies and his way of life.”

Bob joined the brigade in April 1926 as a retained firefighter at Hanley Fire Station, following in his father’s footsteps. The following year he became a wholetime firefighter and he served throughout World War 2. He was promoted to Station Officer at Burslem Fire Station in 1941 where he ended his career after 36 years.

Following his retirement Bob remained active and at the age of 86 he started to write a book, reminiscing his life in the Service. At the age of 90 he completed the book, “Fire Service Memoirs” and 20 bound copies were produced.

After retiring Bob remained in contact with his fire service colleagues through the Service’s retired welfare network. On his 100th birthday he had a celebration party at Burslem Fire Station.

Listen In To Westport’s Winged Wonders

It sounds like something out of an action film but residents of Stoke are to be given special ultra sonic hearing powers as they hunt for some of Stoke-on-Trent’s most elusive and fascinating beasts next week.

As part of a bat walk taking place at Westport Lake on the evening of Friday 28th May visitors will be given special devices to hear the ultra sonic sounds that bats make as they hunt for insects. It’s the first time that such an event has been held at Westport Lake and it will provide a great opportunity to get close to these elusive creatures.

Those taking part in the walk are expected to see and hear several different species as they fly overhead searching for food. For the very lucky ““ and brave ““ there may also be the opportunity to feel them rush past as they fly around at head height.

Staffordshire is home to 10 of the 17 bat species found in Britain. The Pipistrelle is the most abundant and familiar as it is most commonly seen around houses and gardens in the area but other species such as Noctule and Daubenton’s have been seen and heard at Westport recently.

The walk has been organised in conjunction with Staffordshire Bat Group as part of the “ËœCanals for the Community’ programme, a Big Lottery Funded scheme aimed at engaging people with their local canal and bringing a sense of pride and ownership over their surroundings.

Canals for the Community Project Officer Louise North said:

“Stoke’s canals and lakes are great places to spot all types of wildlife but this walk will give people a fascinating insight into the lives of one particular animal that is perhaps less well known. By listening in to the sounds that the bats make and learning about their behaviour we hope that people will gain a better understanding of the wildlife that can be found on their doorstep”.

The walk begins at 9pm and booking is essential as places are limited. For further information and to book please call Louise North on 07827 083538 or email louise.north@britishwaterways.co.uk

For wildlife spotting at any hour British Waterways runs an annual wildlife survey encouraging families to record sightings of all wildlife they see on the waterways. As part of the survey British Waterways is also running a photography competition for adults and children, with prizes of up to £100 available. To find out more and to download a wildlife survey guide, visit www.waterscape.com/wildlifesurvey.

Step Into The Story Of Stoke With Canal Walk

Stoke residents will have the chance to step into the past over the Bank Holiday weekend as they are given a rare opportunity to learn about some of Stoke’s most historic buildings.

Local historian Andrew Dobraszczyc will be leading a walk around some of the wharves, warehouses, potteries, flour mills and lime kilns that line the Trent & Mersey Canal through Middleport and Longport.

The walk taking place from 2.30pm on Sunday 30th May will give people a rare opportunity to explore Longport Wharf and take a look at one of the two warehouses which date back to the 1840s. Longport was a significant inland port and the warehouses would have been used to store crates and hogsheads packed with pottery from factories in Tunstall and Burslem ready for transportation to Liverpool where they would be shipped over to North America. The warehouses would also have been used to store hats made in Newcastle-Under-Lyme which were then exported to South America and the Carribean.

As well as visiting the wharf the walk will also explore the history of The Packhorse Inn complete with stables where horses that pulled the barges would sleep ready for the next day’s work.

The walk has been organised by British Waterways as part of the ‘Canals in the Community’ programme, a Big Lottery Funded scheme aimed at engaging people with their local canal and bringing a sense of pride and ownership over their surroundings.

Canals for the Community Project Officer, Louise North said;

“These buildings were the centre of their community and they have some fascinating stories to tell. This walk presents the ideal opportunity for the local community to rediscover these stories and really immerse themselves in the history of their city.”

The walk is free of charge and suitable for people of all ages. For further information and to book your place on the walk please contact Louise North on 07827 083538 or Email louise.north@britishwaterways.co.uk