Friday, 7 December 2012

Does Stoke-on-Trent City Council have any idea what it's doing?

Unfortunately I could not attend to observe the Stoke-on-Trent City Council meeting on 6/12/12, so I watched the webcast afterwards.  From what Lord Mayor Terry Crowe said, there seemed to be 3 members of the public observing the meeting.

At time 0:14:48 Cllr Olwen Hamer proposed a motion that the council authorises the Leader and Cabinet to prepare and submit a response to the revised recommendations by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) and for a report on this action to be submitted to the full council.  Cllr Ruth Rosenau seconded this.

I have already submitted my response

There were only two speakers on the issue.  Olwen Hamer liked the fact that the revised proposals no longer split Burslem but she did not like the West Staffordshire constituency and its wide spread over 3 local authority areas.  She also wanted the existing ward boundaries to be used in constituency construction.  However the BCE is required by legislation to have regard to the old 2010 wards.  I can not find any submission by Olwen Hamer to the BCE consultation and do not get the impression she is properly engaged with the issues. 

Cllr Martin Garner, at time 0:16:42, echoed Olwen Hamer's comments.  He acknowledged that Stoke-on-Trent does not have enough electorate for 3 constituencies but wanted Stoke-on-Trent North to stay as it is currently except for the addition of Newchapel ward.  He did not make any suggestions for the other Stoke-on-Trent constituencies, merely complained about West Staffordshire.  This is not very constructive and he cannot expect the BCE to do much about this if he is not willing to suggest to them what he wants.  He quotes Rob Hayward speaking for the conservatives as wishing for constituencies to contain ideally only one or two local authority areas.  This is a fair point except  for all constituencies to fit together this will for some not be possible.  In fact, Rob Hayward said about my talk at the Stafford hearing “I think she gave some interesting thoughts.  I would not say whether I commend them or not but I thought they were interesting thoughts, particularly in terms of trying to link the historic towns of Stoke-on-Trent, as I understand them, while taking the part of Stoke-on-Trent that she saw as the more recent element out into a Stone constituency.”   The BCE revised recommendation for Stoke-on-Trent North is ideal in that it contains only one local authority, whereas Martin Garner's suggestion has two, three in his alternative numbering system where he counts Staffordshire County Council also.  In his submission to the BCE he even seemed happy to add another local authority by including parts of Biddulph.  It is also worth noting that he was happy to refer to old wards in that submission and made no complaint about not using the current wards.  His arguments do not consistently stack up.  Martin Garner then said the main reason for the review is to make it easier for the conservatives to win the next election.  But party politics have not been a criterion in the BCE proposals.

It will be interesting to see if Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and his cabinet do come up with a realistic alternative set of proposals, but I won't hold my breath!

At time 0:20:24 Olwen Hamer's proposal was put to the vote and Terry Crowe pronounced that the motion was LOST!  

This is a little surprising; it was a Labour motion, contributors spoke in favour of the motion, Labour have a majority of councillors and there was a Labour majority at the meeting.  It wasn't a named vote and the show of hands is not visible on the webcast, so at first I could only conclude that a significant number of Labour councillors voted against the Labour motion.  Terry Crowe appeared somewhat surprised himself, "you know where your friends are" he said.

Further confusion occurs on viewing the draft minutes which state that the resolution was made, 
in contradiction to the vote seen on the webcast.  I have since heard that the version in the minutes is the correct one, but if so why did Terry Crowe say what he did?

Does Stoke-on-Trent City Council have any idea what it's doing?

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