I didn’t go to the Stoke-on-Trent City Council meeting on 29th March 2012 as I attended a governors' meeting at Trentham High School followed by a prize presentation evening at Stoke-on-Trent 6th Form College – which was a very good event.
I eventually found time to watch the webcast. As usual the petitions and public questions particularly interest me.
Philippa Brown (0:20:11) gave a loud presentation of a 112 signature petition demanding that the monopoly running the ice cream and snack bar at Central Forest Park be dismantled and volunteers reintegrated. She claimed a previous petition had been ignored. She said the profit making was detrimental to park users and people are being ripped off (complete with spectacular rolling ‘r’). She quoted Cllr Mark Meredith’s election leaflet; “the volunteers have set a precedent that the council will be embracing”, “the views and ideas of park users are an essential contribution”. But she said, on the contrary, the precedent had not been embraced and volunteers had instead been squashed, oppressed, suppressed, discriminated against, victimised and some threatened with a court injunction! Why am I not surprised? She said the council legal department advocates mediation before legal action, but no mediation had been offered.
Lee Martin (0:23:49) presented a 111 signature petition against extending the contract of the snack bar at Central Forest Park. He expressed disappointment that the contract had gone to a business rather than the community group. He accused the council of not following EU guidelines and not properly valuing volunteers. He said it was shameful and queried whether the council knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. He said he has respect for Cllr Mohammed Pervez but accused him of underestimating the strength of public opinion.
The numbers given correspond to those in the document.
1. Adam Colclough (0:28:02) had asked whether, given the serious health, social and economic impact of gambling addiction, will the council be supporting the High Streets First campaign which calls on Eric Pickles to grant communities the power to decide whether they want a bookies or a bookshop on their high street. Personally I am opposed to gambling and agree that Adam’s question is an important one. The response had been waffle related to planning. Adam rather diplomatically reiterated his actual question. Cllr Adrian Knapper (0:29:01) said there had been a reduction in betting licenses from 41 to 37 then admitted he didn’t really know about the High Streets First campaign. Why not? This had been referred to in the original question, so why had he not found out then?
5. Kieran Clarke (0:30:20) had asked about dog fouling penalty enforcement and obtained quite a detailed response. He asked if this could be publicized in ‘Our City’ magazine. Cllr Janine Bridges (0:31:29) did not give such a good answer to this as the magazine is undergoing a tender for new provision.
6. Kieran Clarke (0:33:58) had asked about the current status of Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head Outdoor Education Centre and been told the first two would transfer to trusts but Stanley Head would not. Kieran did not believe there was authorisation to close Stanley Head as it had not been mentioned in the budget. Cllr Sarah Hill (0:33:48) confirmed they do have authority to do this. Yes, I’ve noticed, they do whatever they like.
7. Lee Martin (0:34:33) had asked about council policy with relation to EU guidance on ‘Buying Social’ and been told the council is “constantly reviewing how social objectives are incorporated into its procurement processes”, which doesn’t really answer the question. He further asked about how social benefit is measured. Cllr Paul Shotton (0:35:17) admitted this is difficult and promised to reply in writing.
10. Mick Williams (0:36:10) had asked (again!) who decides policy for community
engagement, but had been given waffle about ‘consultation’ with no clarity whatsoever on decision making. Mick referred to the 3 area meetings of residents’ associations going in different directions. He said one area had a first objective “to do what we say we will” and asked what is meant by this? Cllr Gwen Hassall (0:39:16) said the areas are going in the same direction and did not seem to recognise the objective quoted. She said she would talk to Mick about this. I hope she does! It’s way beyond time the council thrashed out the issue of community engagement decision making with Mick and actually answered his questions.