Stokie Terry Follows Denver Into Lord Mayors Parlour

Stokie lad Cllr Terry Follows was today [Thursday] voted in as the City of Stoke-on-Trent’s next Lord Mayor.

Fenton born and bred, the son of a miner and a pottery worker, Terry was nominated by Labour Councillor Tom Reynolds and was seconded by his City Independent Group Leader Cllr Dave Conway.

In nominating Terry, Cllr Tom Reynolds told the chamber that he had tremendous respect for him and for the work he does in his ward.

He also reminded the chamber of the work he carried out in helping to save the secondary school in his ward, Trentham High, from closure.

Tom Reynolds said that he remembered the time just days after the sad passing of his wife Christine, Terry was back in the chamber fighting on behalf of the school and the TAG. A fight that would eventually be won.

Terry Follows signed the declaration of acceptance for the office of Lord Mayor in a packed council chamber and told the councillors and members of the public present that he had waited a long 15 years to receive the honour of being the City’s first citizen.

He promised to do his best to promote the city at all times and to show the same commitment in his time in office as he shows to the electorate of Hanford & Trentham.

The 64-year-old lifelong “ËœStokie’ has represented the city on three separate occasions, the first spell starting 24 years ago in 1987. Following a year long break between 1991 and 1992, Terry returned for his second spell of four years before leaving the council in 1996. He has served the city continuously since returning as councillor in 2004.

Terry has also served as a cabinet member for the past two years holding, until earlier this month, the portfolio for environment, waste management and neighborhood services.

His career saw him start work at the age of 16 as an apprentice plumber for Seddon. He then went on to run his own plumbing and central heating business from the ages of 26 to 60, when he retired.

He has a son and three grandchildren – an 18 year old girl, 16 year old boy, and a new nine month old baby boy who Terry is looking forward to spending the coming years with – and says he is overjoyed to represent the city and its residents.

Terry takes over the civic chain of office from former councillor Denver Tolley. He will be accompanied in his civic duties by Jacqueline Pearson, who will be the Lady Mayoress. The council also decided that Councillor Majid Khan would become Deputy Lord Mayor.

Listen to Terry’s first interview as the new Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent below.

500 Words – Denver Tolley the Labour Candidate for Longton North


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**Archive Story From 2010 Election**
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I’ve served the Longton North area for more than twenty years now in one way or another. I live here, and I love the place.

Over the last few years, with my fellow Labour Councillors, Tom Reynolds and Mark Davis, I’ve worked hard to improve things, but also to keep people in touch with what we’re doing. This is something I intend to keep pushing if I’m re-elected.

There have been a lot of changes over the years, and one I’ve really welcomed has been the introduction of the ward budgets ““ it means we’ve finally got some of the things that I’ve been fighting for over years ““ it also means we’ve been able to focus on the things local people have told us are their priorities.

A couple of years ago Longton North had a really bad anti-social behaviour problem ““ so bad that the police imposed Section 30 dispersal orders – but since then things have started to improve. We’ve put money into extra policing, we’ve got youth services out on the streets, and we’ve made sure the Council use the tough new powers they’ve been given by the Labour Government to tackle nuisance neighbours and things like litter louts and fly-tippers. Now I’m not saying everything is perfect ““ we still have too many gangs of kids hanging around on street corners, too much graffiti, too much litter ““ but things are getting better and I want to see that continue. Particularly with the summer months coming up we shouldn’t become complacent.

Our Town Centre is still strong, but needs building up. I’m proud to serve on the Longton Regeneration Board, which is working with local people to create plans for the future of the town. There are lots of exciting things coming forward, but sadly too many things are out of our hands. The Council had to fight for years to get the old burnt out bakers shop knocked down in The Strand, because it was in private hands. I’d love to see the Railway Bridge painted and I’ve been working with Rob Flello on this, but until Network Rail give the go ahead nothing can happen. There are too many derelict buildings that need to come down, but their owners aren’t cooperating with us.

I have had the honour of being Deputy Lord Mayor for the past 12 months and it has given me the opportunity to see the talent, good work and pride within our City.

We’ve got lots of choices in front of us as an area ““ particularly the issue of the new High school to serve our area and I want to see a school on the Mitchell site to serve Bentilee and another school, possibly on one of the current sites, to serve our young people. Big decisions like this need local knowledge and experience – things I’ve got a plenty of ““ I hope I’ll get the chance to carry on serving the people of Longton North and the City.

Comment: Stoke-on-Trent Central – The Impact & The Aftermath

The great thing about writing for a site like Pits n Pots is that every so often you get the opportunity to give your 10 penneth to the current hot debate.

So here goes – On the 16th of March I wrote the following:

“Gary Elsby is desperate to be a candidate after 30 years dedicated loyal service to the Labour Party. His timely removal from the parliamentary list has thrown his candidature into serious doubt. He is committed to standing as an MP in the area he has served for many years. It is rumoured that he has the support of a large section of the membership in the constituency. The sad fact is he may have to step outside of his beloved party to achieve this. I think he is totally prepared to do this”.

Well, prepared he certainly was. Yesterday he announced that he was to go it alone and as it was Good Friday, a slow news day, he was maxed out on media attention.

He has made the move, thrown his hat in the ring and now there is no way back for him.

I have been covering the whole sorry saga of Stoke Centrals battles with the West Midlands Regional Office and the paid enforcers of the National Executive Committee for many months now.

Yesterday’s announcement was the Champions League Semi-Final of the competition, there have been many preliminary rounds, but we are now close to the Grand Final which will be played out in front of the nation on May 6th.

The Labour Party have to take the ultimate responsibility for this whole fiasco.

Firstly, those in the Regional Office who decided that Gary Elsby, Barry Stockley & Mick Williams were not suitable and deemed ‘hostiles’ and subsequently prevented from standing in the local elections. Were their crimes ever explained?

Why were they treated differently to people like Joy Garner and Joan Bell who walked out of the Labour council group and joined a Conservative coalition, only to walk back into the party without any recrimination what-so-ever. Why treat these people differently? I suggest the party hold an urgent inquiry into this whole sorry debacle and those ultimately responsible for the witch hunt against these individuals should be forced out of the party with the same dignity shown to Elsby, Williams and Stockley.

It has been suggested that Gary Elsby would have been better served by staying in the party and to help bring those twisted officers to book for their actions. No volunteers deserve to be treated the way these three have by paid officers of a political party.

Secondly, if the Special Selection Panel were directed to include and exclude certain names it should be made public and an explanation given.

Who ever was responsible for not putting a woman or any local candidates on the shortlist must be named and shamed. It was a travesty in the least and an act of political incompetence at worse.

The decision not to allow local names on the shortlist was a terrible mistake. It has left some individuals pondering their future within the party. Sarah Hill, Jane Heggie and Merv Smith all made the interview stage and I’m told gave a good account of themselves. Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper did not even make the longlist. What a joke, I say ambition must be encouraged not stifled.

To their enormous credit most local candidates have expressed their disappointment but urged everyone to united behind the chosen candidate.

There has got to be an end to imposed candidates and rigged shortlists. The Labour Party need to focus on the fact that they have an election to win, not on the possible leadership battle which may follow.

The one person that can not in any way be blamed for the way the Central Three have been treated or the way the shortlist was compiled is Tristram Hunt.

Some of the comments that have been kicking around the Internet have been laughable.

The suggestion that someone with a name like Tristram or someone as posh as he is can not serve the electorate of Stoke-on-Trent Central adequately is quite frankly, an insult to all those that live in the constituency.

He has the backing of the two men responsible for bringing Mark Fisher MP to the City, Terry Crowe and Barry Stockley.

They did not think that it was an issue that Mark Fisher was educated at Eton or was the son of a Conservative MP. I don’t doubt for a second that they think Tristram’s education, profession or heritage should be an issue either.

I have met Tristram Hunt and found him to be a hugely impressive character. I know he felt that the shortlist should have been more extensive and included local names.

I know also that he is committed to uniting the party and reconciling the differences between the region and the constituency. I know he would have fought to get Gary Elsby back onto the parliamentary list and allowed to stand for council in 2011.

Tristram comes with no baggage attached as far as the past battles of the City Labour Party or the Regional/NEC interference.

He is also untainted by the past scandals such as the MPs expenses and the abuse of parliamentary privileges.

He must be judged on the pledges he made prior to being selected which are:

“¢ Fight to keep schools located in our communities
“¢ Use all my business, political and media skills to bring investment, regeneration, tourism and jobs to Stoke;
“¢ Work tirelessly to improve the profile of Stoke-on-Trent nationally;
“¢ Tackle the BNP head on and remove their vicious stain from our streets;
“¢ Build a vibrant and inclusive local party;
“¢ Liaise with local groups, the police and Council to fight anti-social behaviour;
“¢ Make a family home in the constituency;
“¢ Publish transparent and open expenses.

If Tristram Hunt has the ear of the likes of the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, I can think of worse allies. If he can use his influence to get our City a better deal, help with regeneration and attracting inward investment, this can only be a good thing can’t it?

He must not be judged on the treatment handed out to Gary Elsby but he could help to make certain that this never happens again to anyone within the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent.

I have spoken to lots of people who are sympathetic to Gary Elsby’s plight, some close to him and some not so close.

Whilst these Labour Supporters want those responsible for the treatment metered out to Gary to be forced out or to resign from the party, they will not be voting for Gary.

The people who I have spoken to believe that their party is bigger than any one individual. They believe that people like the excellent Peter Kenyon will carry on fighting their cause and that the media attention caused by this story will ensure changes to the selection processes of the future.

The biggest fear for the normal Labour Supporters I have spoken to is that Gary Elsby may split the Labour vote and let the BNP or the Conservatives in through the back door.

I have been told that Tristram is approachable, accessible and inclusive.He needs to prove it by getting out and meeting as many of the electorate as he can. He needs to show people his qualities. He needs to hold as many public events where members of the public can voice their concerns and ask their questions of him.

I have known Gary Elsby since 1979. We joined the Labour Party at the same time in the early 80′s.

I know that he has been hurt badly by recent events. I do believe he has been treated appallingly badly by the Regional Officers and the NEC paid enforcers. I do believe that they have acted on information supplied to them by local members.

Gary has chosen to chart his own course. He will give it his best shot but I think deep down he would still prefer to see a Tristram Hunt as an MP rather than a Simon Darby.

The question now is how long it will be before those who have encouraged him come out and publicly back the candidate that they voted for with a massive majority at the hustings?

People must realise that this has being on the cards for far longer than just the past few days. No matter who would have been shortlisted Gary was deemed as unsuitable and removed from the parliamentary list. He knew this better than anyone.

Gary’s argument is not with Tristram Hunt but those individuals who have acted like Pontius Pilate in deciding peoples fate.

Meanwhile Tristram Hunt will campaign to prove he is worthy of stepping into his predecessor’s shoes.

Mark Fisher thinks that he is more than worthy.

The confirmed candidates in Stoke-on-Trent Central could fill all the outfield positions on a Football pitch [11], god help us if the subs bench starts getting full too!

Mike Ion The Latest Name To Be Linked With Stoke Central

The latest name to be linked to the Labour Party vacancy in Stoke-on-Trent Central is that of Mike Ion.

Mike is a man with a long Labour Party tradition and has certainly got the pedigree to be a serious contender:

“¢Born and grew up in Sandbach
“¢Labour’s PPC for the marginal seat of Shrewsbury in 2005
“¢Labour Councillor on Telford & Wrekin UA and Wellington Town Council Between 1995-2004
“¢Fabian Society and Compass member
“¢WM regional campaign manager for Hilary Benn’s deputy leadership campaign in 2007
“¢Vice-chair of local branch (former CLP secretary)
“¢Former campaign co-ordinator for Wrekin CLP (1997 general election)
Other life experience:
“¢National Programme Director for School Improvement at the National Secondary Strategy
“¢Former headteacher of large 11-18 comprehensive school
“¢Co-leader of a PHAB (physically handicapped and able bodied) Club that meets each Monday evening (awarded the Princess Diana Memorial award for community service in 2005)
“¢Member of the BBC local radio advisory panel
“¢Served in the RAF for six years after leaving school at 16
“¢NUT member
“¢JP (Magistrate)
“¢BA, MPhil, PGCE

Speaking on his blog recently Mike said:

“I have decided to put my name forward for Stoke Central… will post more if shortlisted (the deadline for the submission of CVs is next Tuesday, March 23rd)”.

He joins Byron Taylor & Tristram Hunt as contenders from out side the City Of Stoke-on-Trent.

They will be facing local opposition from Sarah Hill, Tom Reynolds, Jane Heggie, Adrian Knapper and Alison Wedgwood.

Interestingly the key battle among the ‘outsiders’ could be between Byron Taylor and Tristram Hunt.

Both have been active in the constituency in the past few days talking to the electorate and Labour Party members.

It is alleged that Hunt is being championed by the Labour Party leadership and has the considerable weight of Lord Mandelson, Alistair Campbell and David Milliband behind him.

Taylor is known to be the favourite of the Unions and has very strong links with and support from Unite.

The Unions have been successful is getting candidacies for some of their key officials and officers.

Given the amount of funding that the unions and in particular Unite put into the party they could probably assume that they have more say in key candidates for safe seats.

The local candidates are busy networking and talking to Labour Party members and are probably pushing the fact that Stoke Central needs a local candidate.

One thing that Stoke Central needs is a constituency office. Barry Stockley has worked tirelessly for Mark Fisher MP in over the years and has assisted many constituents.

But the model that Stoke-on-Trent South operate, which is an office in the middle of the constituency that is more like a drop in centre and is run by full time staff, is something that Rob Flello’s constituents really appreciate.

The longlist is being currently being compiled by the Special Selection Panel of the party. They will also choose the shortlist and from that they will select the 5-6 names that will go forward to the hustings which will be on the 1st April [let's hope that date does not prove to be ironic!]

An interesting twist to this tale surrounds the question of who will chair the hustings meeting?

Given the fact that the executive of the Stoke Central are all but suspended and prohibited from meeting, surely it could be possible that a key meeting like this be chaired by someone who is not a party of the Stoke Central CLP executive.

This could lead to another potential flash point and one that is entirely avoidable.

Park Progress and Refreshment Rage

Happily, there is some great news from the CHAD Park Partnership.

The builders have now moved on site to start the new Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) at the side of Gladstone Primary and it should be completed in a couple of months. The MUGA will include 5 a side and basketball equipment, and will also be marked out for other sports. It’ll have two gates, one attached to the school and one accessible for the public. During school hours the court will be exclusively for the use of Gladstone, but out of hours it will be accessible for the whole of the community to use.

The project has been made possible thanks to pro bono work by Mansell (the Gladstone School building contractors) with match funding raised from grants and ward budget bids by Partnership Chair, Sue Rammell and the school’s Youth Forum. The really great thing about the scheme is that it has been made possible by the whole community coming together to drive it forward: young people, parents, grandparents and councillors. However special credit needs to be given to Sue Rammell and Dave Eaglestone (Gladstone School Build Manager) whose tireless efforts and negotiations with the Sport England, City Planners and Funding Bodies are finally paying off.

And things get better ““ thanks to resources that have been made available the MUGA will now also feature a lighting system that will make it useable all year round. Also, work is beginning for a new under 10s play area at Anchor Road Rec. People who know the area will know the shocking state of the play equipment there ““ now a new naturalised play park is being installed using play-builder finance.

Also I think its worth mentioning a leading story in the Sentinel this week, regarding proposed savings from cutting the refreshments at meetings at the civic. http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/TEA-BISCUITS-FACING-163-20k-CUT/article-1701221-detail/article.html Cllr Kieran Clarke thinks that £20k can be saved by introducing a “Ëœrefreshments policy’. That got me thinking about a couple of things.

Firstly, which meetings have refreshments to that value in the first place? I’ve never even seen coffee and tea at O&S meetings!

Secondly, and more to the point, why is a “Ëœpolicy’ being considered? When cutting valued services across the city and cherished facilities are being put forward by the Cabinet, it should go without saying that drinks and butties at the Civic be cut back completely. I was also a little bemused by the outraged responses of the Councillors that commented in the Sentinel’s coverage. Difficult budgetary decisions will have to be made in the coming months, but before I’m asked to vote on a closure for Tunstall or Shelton Pool I want to know that everything has been done to trim the fat in the authority. Perks for Members and Officers like snacks at meetings should be first on the chopping block, so let’s not shilly-shally around with a “Ëœrefreshments policy’.

CONCERNS OVER CHILDREN’S SERVICES CONTRACT

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Stoke-on-Trent Labour Group have today warned the Conservative-Independent cabinet against blindly going out to tender on a lucrative contract to run the city’s education and children’s social services.

In an email to the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Labour’s Spokesman Tom Reynolds outlined the Group’s concerns about letting a private company continue to run some of council’s most important functions. Labour are worried that with an outside company running the department – there is a democratic deficit on decision making.

Cllr Tom Reynolds

Cllr Tom Reynolds

Since 2005, the Children and Young People’s Services Directorate has been run by Serco who have been responsible for the controversial school reorganisation. They were brought in when the then Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes issued and intervention order because the council was deemed to be failing the children in its care. Since then Joint Area Review results so a vast improvement.

Labour Spokesman for Children, Tom Reynolds said:
“Children’s Services is one of the most important functions of the council and it should have democratic accountability. We are worried that if a long lucrative contract is issued to Serco or another similar company, there will be no incentive for them to build the capacity so that in the future the city can run its own department – that was the point of outsourcing in the first place!
“The cabinet have to do what is right for the city’s children. In the long term we think that means the management of the Directorate should

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

Mike Barnes - Labour Group Leader

come back in house. Any future contracts should contain that stipulation.”

Mike Barnes, Labour Group Leader added,

“It’s time to stand up on our own two feet. I am disappointed that Ross Urving, the Council Leader, and members of his Cabinet are even contemplating conituing outsourcing Children’s Servcies; epsecially when the minister has clearly signalled confidence in Stoke-on-Trent City Council running its own affairs.

It seems extra-ordinary that the Conservative Council Leader has intimated that neither he or his colleagues are able to run Childrens Services themselves, through our own officers.

The majority of the public have expressed little confidence in the current arrangements, particularly over the handling of secondary and special education, I think they too would expect Ross Irving to bring Childrens Services back where it belongs – in public, democratic control, and not for private profit.”

‘Shame on young people’ says Meir Councillor

By Tony Walley.

Cllr John Daniels

Cllr John Daniels

Cllr John Daniels, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, blasted the young people of his own ward on Friday, by saying “shame on them” .

The comments came following a meeting called by a local resident to revitalise the Plantation Play Area in Meir.

The meeting, organised by Wood Farm Resident’s Association Chair Brian Jones, was arranged to gauge opinion on a proposal for a new play facilities on the estate.

Speaking with other councillors after the meeting, Tory member John Daniels said that if “tough kids in Meir North” would not travel to other facilities in the area “shame on them”. Cllr Daniels

Cllr Tom Reynolds

Cllr Tom Reynolds

harsh words come as national Tory leader David Cameron and local council leader Ross Irving are trying to promote “caring conservatism”.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Tom Reynolds said:
“Its completely understandable that parents are reluctant to let their children travel across busy roads and in unfamiliar areas- there are obvious safety concerns- I don’t see why Cllr Daniels doesn’t get it.

“We understand that people want local play provision in the heart of their community- its about standing up for young people. We support the initiative which will revitalise the plantation and I give my full support to Brian Jones in driving it forward.”

This article is taken from a Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party press release and does not necessarily contain the views of the person posting it.

Tom Reynolds on BSF and The EMB!

By Pits’n’Pots Contributor.

Where now for BSF?

I wanted to make my latest blog on the recent developments in the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme; however I wanted to first let the dust settle on this week’s Executive and Member Board (EMB) meeting.

I am delighted that Trentham High School (THS) has been granted a reprieve from closure. I expressed my sympathy for Trentham Action Group’s well thought out arguments and a hope that Jim Knight would clarify whether 14 schools were possible at the last council meeting during the debate on Cllr Follows’ motion. I’m therefore delighted that the work of Rob Flello in badgering the Minister finally paid off, and that the action group’s tireless, long, and well fought campaign proved to be worth the hard work.

I’m also pleased that the EMB honoured Jim Knight’s wish to keep THS open. However I am also concerned by the specific course of action taken. The school has now been taken out entirely from the BSF scheme meaning it will have no access to funding for renovation and refurbishment. I feel it is seriously amiss to deprive children in any part of the city from this excellent government investment in education ““ including the attendees of a saved THS. The minister’s letter stated he would accommodate a 14 school BSF proposal with Trentham being the 14th ““ that is what should have been approved by the EMB. If there is a legal technicality concerning trust schools not being able to receive BSF investment, frankly it is nothing that couldn’t be sorted out by a dialogue with the Department for Children, Schools, and Families.

Further, I think that the knock-on effects of retaining THS for the South and East of the City needs to be fully considered. Pupil numbers for the other schools, as well as the areas they serve, will now all change. Arguably, rather than a quandary this presents an opportunity to perfect the plans to suit all area’s needs.

On the whole, the families that attended the Park Hall consultation (which I have previously blogged about) were broadly happy with academy plans ““ such as the sponsor etc. The main concern was travel to and from school to that particular gasometer cite. The dissatisfaction at Mitchell and Berryhill Schools should also be ignored at peril.

But as I said, the changes in the proposals are an opportunity. Blurton Acadamy will have capacity for more children from the south part of Longton, which in part addresses the concerns raised at the recent consultation by Dresden parents about the distance they would need to travel to Park Hall. There is also, I believe, scope to look at alternative sites for the Park Hall Academy. So what are the options?

1) The Gasometer Site is Serco’s stated preferred option. I, like many parents am concerned about the safety of access to the site and it could cost a lot to decommission the gasometer. It does have the benefit of being reasonably central to the Longton North and Bentilee communities.
2) Mitchell Site or Wilfield Site: Both sites are a problem for me because of the distance children from my ward would have to travel to school. Wilfield is my preferred of the two but kids would still have to cross Dividy Road by a busy bus depot.
3) My preferred option, and one that needs to be investigated and mooted further is for an Academy on the site of the old Mossfield Colliery. It has the benefit of being equidistant for the Longton North and Bentilee and Berry Hill areas, and has safer access from all sides than the gasometer site. Further the land is already clear and, as I understand, is in council ownership (although this needs to be clarified). The site has potential that should be investigated further.



There will doubtlessly be more twists in the tale of the secondary school reorganisation over the next couple of months. I have two hopes, that the City Council leadership will have a more vigorous dialogue with the Government and public going forward and that we will start to see construction workers as soon as possible.

Cllr Tom Reynolds

Longton North Ward

http://longtonnorth.blogspot.com/ Visit the Longton North Website.

Park Hall Academy Shows Promise

By Tom Reynolds

Tom Reynolds

Tom Reynolds

I attended the Park Hall Academy consultation on Monday night at Longton Town Hall led by Ian Kendrick from the Children and Young People Directorate along with representatives from the academy sponsor (Stoke-on-Trent College) and the current schools’ senior management teams (Edensor and Mitchell). The event was also attended by a good number of parents and interested residents from the communities which the new academy will serve.

The Building Schools for the Future Programme has been fraught with controversy here in Stoke. However, from this meeting I sensed a measured enthusiasm for the principles of the reorganisation and for the proposal on the table.

A few parents were angry about a shortcoming in the admissions process this year. They were understandably not satisfied with their school allocations which bore no resemblance to their applications, hopefully however this will be rectified through appeal. This issue, partly affecting families that live the Meir Hay area of my ward is something that I had already raised with the Director of Children’s Services.

With that exception it appeared to me that peoples’ main worry with the Park Hall Academy was the timescale ““ were their children going to be in the generation that benefited. Given the history and tumult surrounding of the process you can truly appreciate that worry and the desire to just get on and build the thing!

Other than that there was a good deal of information disseminated which addressed attendee’s other concerns ““ some outline details of what the new academy will be like were set out.Two of my principle apprehensions were laid to rest.

The first was safe routes to and from the academy ““ I really worry that Anchor Rd in its current form is neither safe enough nor fit to cope with additional transport associated with an academy. I was reassured that measures will be put in place, in the first instance a detailed study commissioned by the council to be conducted by Mott McDonald. This is a company with good and well renowned pedigree and expertise in this area. This anxiety was shared by many parents and I think we will all await the results of Mott McDonald’s work with interest.

The second, interestingly for me, was not raised by one single parent as one of their concerns. I’m talking about the governance arrangements for the new academy. This is cited as the principle bug bear by the anti-academies lobby, but it doesn’t seem to greatly worry most people. I was very encouraged that the sponsor wished to emphasise that the academy would be led by the community ““ including via governorships.

This was especially pleasing for me, as I had had reservations that the statutory requirement of one parent governor would be insufficient as the sole extent of community representation on the new governing body. Happily, the sponsor was keen to indicate that such under representation would not occur. Working with the community I am now certain that the Stoke-on-Trent College as sponsor will get the balance of representation right on the governing body when the academy’s constitution is drafted.

Like many parents, I want to see bricks a mortar as soon as possible, but only if the plans are right. The devil is in the detail and parents need to be fully informed of that detail. I eagerly await the publications of draft building, transition, and transport plans & the proposed constitution.

COUNCILLOR TOM REYNOLDS TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO PITSNPOTS!

In the first of a long series of blog articles, Longton North Labour Councillor Tom Reynolds, tells pitsnpots his feelings in the wake of last weeks referendum.

I would like to personally thank Tom for his blog, he is a hardworking young councillor and in my opinion we need more of his calibre in this city, no, not because he is Labour, but because he is driven and enthusiastic!

“First things first, I’d like to thank Tony and the team for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the blog. Despite the fact that some of the posts on here have given me and my close colleagues a rough ride, the aim of the site in raising interest in Stoke politics is invaluable. The 19% turnout in last week’s referendum was a dire demonstration of the indifference to politics as a whole in this city and any efforts to reverse this state of affairs is laudable.
I cannot proceed without mentioning the referendum outcome. I campaigned on the No Vote side of the argument as I believed in a model of governance where every citizen of the city was enfranchised to pick the person that leads the City Council. After six weeks of hard campaigning by both sides, the people of Stoke have spoken. I and the Labour colleagues that fought to keep the Mayoral model will of course respect the people’s decision to the utmost.
Paradoxically, as a group of councillors we are now much more powerful. We are now charged with the task of picking the new executive Leader of the Council, a leader who will have to face some enormous issues: education reorganisation, city wide regeneration and transforming the standard of services that the Council provides. So the big question is which direction?
There will be a lot of posturing from some individuals within the council that see themselves in with a chance of leading the authority in May 2009. Cllr Rigby, from the City Independents and Alby Walker from the BNP have both already thrown their hat in the ring. In my view, if either of these contenders succeeds the City is in trouble.
What do the Independents actually stand for? We know what they are against but do they actually have any ideas for moving the City forward – if they do I have not heard them. If Cllr Rigby does lead the council I cannot see what his platform would be. He has after all, admitted on Question Time that he supports BNP councillors and has campaigned for the Tories. What does he actually stand for?
Conversely we know exactly what Cllr Walker and his party stand for, and that is equally worrying. I am not going to enter into a tirade about their repugnant far right ideology or where it could lead. Instead there is a far simpler argument ““ the BNP is bad for business. If Cllr Walker ends up as the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council we can all kiss goodbye to any inward investment.
The only people who can lead this authority, make services better and improve the city are the Labour Party (but that’s what you would expect from me). That is not to ignore the shift against Labour across the City. We must recognise that there is a widespread dissatisfaction about how things have been done in the past. What is absolutely crucial is that as a group of councillors, we demonstrate that Labour is the Group with the vision to improve our city.”