Moving The Civic Centre – £40m Waste Or Crucial Economic Catalyst?

The political leadership of Stoke-on-Trent City Council sure don’t shy away from risking controversy with big thinking. After two years of budget cuts and a council tax rise, the Labour group are advancing their Mandate for Change further than ever before with the announcement of the relocation of the Civic Centre to Hanley- ahem, the city centre.

The plan is to build a whole new £40m headquarters for the council along Potteries Way (known by council managers as the Central Business District), after being based in the purpose-built  £24m current Civic Centre for 20 years. This will, in turn, and in conjunction with the new bus station and City Sentral complex, attract more private investment in the surrounding city centre area. That’s the plan, anyway… Continue reading

Port Vale Is Safe. But For How Long?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council today announced it will cover the cost of putting local football club Port Vale into administration. The club has ran out of cash and faced immediate liquidation without support from the council.

The move was predicted late last week and tonight, details have emerged on how the plan will fall into place. BBC Stoke report that over £600,000 of public money could be used to pay for the High Court process of putting the club into liquidation and covering the running costs of the club for the rest of the season.

Thoughts are now turning to potential investors. Mo Chaudry, a well-known local businessman offered £1.2m for a 54% stake in the club in the summer but was rejected.

 

Back in 2006, Tunstall-born superstar Robbie Williams invested £240,000 into the club and twitter fans of the Vale are sending requests he comes back with more.

The cash injection from the council follows a previous loan made out to Port Vale in 2006 of around £2.25m. The council were still owed around £1.8m of that towards the end of last year. Now, Vale will be owing them well over that original sum.

So, what happens if an investor can’t be found?
130 years of football history will be out the window – something Cllr Mohammed Pervez, Leader of the Council doesn’t want to see: “The stark choice we were faced with was liquidation or Administration. Liquidation would have seen the immediate end to Port Vale Football Club and 130 years of football history with strong community links across the city.

“We need to make it clear we have only opened a window of opportunity for the club. We will still need to find an investor who is offering a viable and sustainable future for the club.

“Without this unfortunately liquidation could well be on the table again in a few months’ time.”

The winding up of businesses is a complex affair but should Port Vale go into liquidation, its assests will be sold off to cover its debts.

On top of a multi-million pound debt to the council, the club owes money to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and others.

Vale last went into administration in 2002 and were brought out of it the following year by supporter-based group called Valiant.

Perhaps we’ll see a Council owned club in the future? Cabinet member for Regeneration, Ruth Rosenau is at Port Vale tonight with her Leader, watching the Vale take on Burton Albion, to show their support.

Councillors On Christian Prayers At Meetings

I woke this morning to news that the High Court ruled prayers before council meetings are unlawful.

Atheist Cllr Clive Bone, of Bideford Town Council, had been campaigning for clarification. It’s been a blow for Christian groups struggling to keep Christianity in a prominent position in an increasingly multicultural society. Continue reading

Longton Has A Bright Future At Its CoRE – Pictures

By Sam Richardson: Stoke-on-Trent is set to become one of the country’s major players in the future of refurbishing homes to 21st century standards.

The Centre of Refurbishing Excellence (CoRE) in Longton was opened today with a round of speeches from senior figures from Stoke-on-Trent and the government. The Centre will train thousands of students and employees with a focus on green energy and power efficiency. Continue reading

City Council Plough Through Regeneration Plans

Cabinet members have discussed a variety of topics including landlord licencing, the brand new East West retail development, new schools and even expanding the lifespans of Stoke residents.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s executive cabinet have agreed
to a whole range of proposals with the overarching aim of kick-starting regeneration
across the city.

Leader of the Council Mohammed Pervez was absent from the
meeting due to personal circumstances but all other members were present, with
Deputy Chair Paul Shotton chairing the meeting

EastWest Retail Development

The cabinet have agreed to enforce Community Purchase Orders
(CPOs) if necessary when developing the brand new EastWest retail development  area in Hanley.

The council had announced that the purchase of the land surrounding
the existing bus station in order for it to be demolished was essential in
keeping the project on track and on budget.

According to the report produced to the cabinet, failing to
own the land in its entirety will risk not only the completion of the new bus
station due to a hold-up in funding, but also the entire East West Shopping
Centre project which has been in the works for several years.

Cabinet member for regeneration Ruth Rosenau told The
Sentinel
: “The reason why we need CPO powers is
for a worst-case scenario.

“We will still do everything we can to reach an amicable agreement with these
landowners.”

“City Centre Realm” Regeneration

The cabinet member for Finance, Sarah Hill, spoke at the
cabinet meeting of how previous plans to update the city centre have perhaps
faltered but that the plans in place today will provide Hanley with a new hope
of regeneration.

Cllr Hill told cabinet: “I want to be in the position where
I go into Hanley and my heart sings.”

This optimism was unanimous as the council approved plans to
redevelop Hanley’s walkways over the next two years. Pedestrian zones linking
the existing Potteries Shopping centre, the new bus station and the planned
East West retail development will be overhauled.

A total of almost £29,000 will be injected into Tontine and
Percy Street providing seats, bins, hanging baskets and trees as well as
changes to the road layouts.

Cabinet member for Economic Development, Mark Meredith,
urged cabinet members that the “proof will be in the pudding that we can
deliver.”

The controversial topic of a pigeon cull was also raised at the meeting, with the possible deployment of falcons to the city centre suggested. The cabinet didn’t overturn the decision despite complaints from residents.

Two more phases of redevelopment are currently being
planned.

Building Schools For Future

The cabinet also discussed the Building Schools for Future scheme currently
rolling out across Stoke-on-Trent. Many of the city’s secondary schools and new
academies are receiving a massive overhaul thanks to government grants.

The government will continue to invest over £200m into
Stoke-on-Trent schools, with the city council providing £55m in partnership,
with £35m being supported borrowing.

The result of the works, expected to be seen by 2015, will
give “staff a fantastic environment to work in and [Stoke-on-Trent] will become
a beacon for teachers looking for a great place to work” according to Cllr
Meredith.

The Deputy Chair, Cllr Shotton noted that credit should be
given to both the previous and current governments for continuing to invest in
Stoke-on-Trent’s school system.

Selective Licensing

One of the city’s most deprived residential areas is to be
the centre-point of a new council policy aiming to improve living standards.

Selective Licensing is all about the city council being able
to “act proactively in partnership with landlords to address the problems” of
low living standards. It means the council will be regulating landlords in the
area, ensuring they’re keeping their properties to a high and lawful standard.

Two areas have been selected across Bond Street and Pinnox
Street.

Landlords will have to apply for a licence from the council
and will have to meet the following requirements:

- provide a gas safety certificate
annually;

- keep electrical appliances and
furniture (supplied under the tenancy) in a safe condition;

- keep smoke alarms in proper working
order;

- supply the occupier with a written
tenancy agreement; and

- demand references from persons wishing
to occupy the house.

This is all part of the city council’s plan to make the city
a great place to live and work.

Landlords in the agreed areas will be liable for prosecution
for not obtaining a licence or breaching its conditions.

Cabinet member for Housing and Neighbourhoods, Gwen Hassall,
informed the cabinet that the house values in the trial are were 61% down on
average prices in the nearby area and that the low demand for housing and high
levels of anti-social behaviour make the area perfect for selective licensing

She said: “We’ve got to raise the standard of the
properties. We really do need to protect the people who live there. They’re
afraid to come out of their homes now as a result of anti-social behaviour.”

She also highlighted the importance of the five year project
as some 3.4m properties in the city are privately rented.

Deputy chair of the cabinet Paul Shotton told the council he’d
like to see the scheme rolled out into other areas.

Local Transport Plan

Cabinet members also agreed to submit the new Local Transport Plan 3 to the next full City Council meeting in September. The plan outlines the vision Stoke-on-Trent City Council will adopt to transport in the city for the next 15 years.

The Plan had been looked at previously by the City Renewal Overview and Scrutiny committee and although not yet released, the comments made in the meeting suggest the plan may include plans to promote bus use.

City Council Vehicles

During a report outlining the plan for renewing lease-holds and purchasing
council vehicles, cabinet member for City Services, Janine Bridges, told the
cabinet that some of the council’s vehicles do not live up to EU standards and
that in the future, she will be looking into the possibility of dual fuel cars
and a more environmentally-friendly approach to the council’s fleet.

CCTV regeneration

Although this item was closed to members of the public
during the cabinet meeting due to its close relation to council finances –
cabinet members have probably approved plans to reinvest in the city’s CCTV and
ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems by building a brand new control
centre and updating the current but outdated system.

City Council Begin £250m Work Into New Academies

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is continuing to invest in secondary and further education despite the difficult financial atmosphere.

The Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Blurton will remain open to staff and students as construction work begins this month.

The project is scheduled to be completed in two phases: the new school will be opened January 2013 and the demolition of the old buildings followed by extensive landscaping in August 2013.

Detailed plans of construction can be found on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council website here

In a council press release, Councillor Ruth Rosenau, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The project is the biggest improvement to education facilities in decades and the start of work on the Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy is a major step forward.”

Councillor Debra Gratton, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “It is one of five purpose built academies being created across the city as part of multi-million pound transformational works to education sites.

“It is an exciting time as the work to transform the city’s education facilities comes to fruition.”

The work doesn’t stop at the Sir Stanley Matthews Academy…

Every secondary and special school in the city will benefit from a total £250m investment, according to the Council website.

More information about the Building Schools for the Future project can be found here.