Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Why I Didn't Support the March on Stoke

Depending on who you believe, between 600 and 60,000 marched from just outside Hanley to Stoke Town last weekend. The occasion? To protest the move of Stoke-on-Trent City Council's HQ in the opposite direction. As a veteran of many demonstrations in Stoke this was the first time I've felt unable to support a community-based march. And as this is my blog, I'm going to explain why.

Needless to say, the City Council move has proven extremely controversial. It was the main reason why Labour lost a by-election to the City Independent group last July, and has thrown much grist into the satanic mill of The Sentinel's letters' page in the half-year since. The basis of opposition rests, in the main, on two key points. The first is a question of money. Moving the council to a new HQ will cost between £40-60m (funded by borrowing and capital receipts) for what, its opponents believe, amounts to zero demonstrable benefit. The second, particularly for businesses and residents in and around Stoke Town, is the fear the move will kill their town centre. Without the daily presence of hundreds of council workers, campaigners believe the town will die. Of course, given the quite dysfunctional nature of politics in Stoke, this move epitomises everything council-bashers and the anti-politics brigade would have you believe. It's a sign of an elitist council, an out-of-touch council, an incompetent council; of a plot to pour public money into private coffers, or to further the objectives of "cultural Marxism". I wouldn't be at all surprised if UKIP - who were the only political party to have a banner on Saturday's march - think it's all Brussel's fault, somehow.

Some people are going to believe what they want to believe. But in truth the council move is all about economic development.

I've written before about Stoke's decline. The challenge therefore is not to moan about good times gone, but to get the wheels of industry turning again. And as it happens, there are a number of ongoing projects and schemes, some City Council-led, some not, that will transform Stoke-on-Trent in the decades ahead.

Education provision in the city right from school to university is having tens of millions invested into it, ensuring that not only do our schools improve attainment but that young people want to come to the city because of its educational promise. Already £261m has been spent on rebuilding or refurbishing the city's schools. Stoke-on-Trent College and Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College have built new campuses and new learning facilities. There is the exceedingly impressive £17m Centre of Science at Staffordshire University. It is a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary facility, which enables the university to compete with the very best for the provision of courses across biosciences, environmental science, chemistry, and psychology. Don't take my word for it - see for yourself. And while we're on the university, it looks like it will be investing an additional £90m into the 'University Quarter' to prepare the ground for the shifting of hundreds of jobs, thousands of students, and attendant spin-off companies and start-ups from its Stafford and Lichfield campuses to the city, a move, it would appear, that is opposed by the Save Our Stoke campaign group.

It's never wise to keep all your eggs in one basket, and there is more going on. The £11m Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE) in Longton is a new hub for refurbishment and construction training across the West Midlands and North West. £18m is being invested in massively improving the linkages of the Etruria Valley business park area - presently the home of Vodafone and Bet 365 - in a bid to attract further businesses to the site.

Most exciting is the quiet revolution taking place over green energy. The city has a sustainable city agreement with E.On over the provision of solar panels on council property. 700 have been installed in the first wave, benefiting hundreds of low income residents. But even more profound is the work being done to develop energy grids that can capture waste heat from the city's factories, AND make use of the hot water coursing through our abandoned mines. In short, what is proposed is nothing less than an energy self-sufficient city capable of generating all the power it needs off the national grid. With energy security a policy headache for the politicians, and rising bills for businesses and consumers, Stoke-on-Trent will be able to offer cheap and stable energy prices other locations cannot. And on top of this is the £1bn City Deal, a joint project city and county bid led by the Local Enterprise Partnership, looking very close to realisation.

There's also a quiet renaissance going on in the housing sector. In two innovative projects, the City Council is offering homes for £1 and a custom home-build scheme. For the first time in a long time, bulldozers are moving in not to demolish houses but build new ones.

The only thing missing from this package of economic rejuvenation is a central business district, and it is the role the City Council are playing in this that is the cause of much controversy. The Council's argument is that as part of a new economic mix for Stoke-on-Trent, the centre requires high grade office space to attract more businesses to the city. By funding the first phase through borrowing from the government at preferential rates, and assisted by the sale of other capital assets across the city, the council believes it will kick start a development that will create up to 4,500 additional jobs on the edge of the city centre. While moving the vast bulk of the council's administration from sites about the city will not create jobs in and of itself, the new build will generate significant savings from consolidation and energy efficiency over 20 years - savings that will cover the loan interest and maintenance. At the end of which, and contrary to what some might think, the new City Council building will be a wholly-owned capital asset held by the local authority.

Understandably, against the backdrop of austerity (the council will be cutting its spend by a further £20m this year) a move like this is a bitter pill to swallow. But it is not a vanity project - there will be no Pervez House, van de Laarschot Building, or Andy Platt Lounge. It's about providing value for money for the Council Tax payer in the long run, it's about raising more money from business rates by attracting more businesses to Stoke-on-Trent (with the DCLG's continued squeeze on national financial settlements, councils have to find other sources of sustainable income), it's about diversifying the city's economy away from public sector dependency, and it will feed in to the retail regeneration of the city centre.

City Sentral is the awful name of the planned £350m shopping centre on the site of the old bus station. Now, I've been extremely uncharitable about retail-led regeneration in the past, and if that was all that was going on, I still would be. But the retail plus the business district plus the other projects outlined above interlock into a coherent and well-rounded scheme. There are constant aspersions cast in the press as to whether it will see the light of day. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of the more misanthropic regulars on The Sentinel's letters' page would like to see it cave simply so they can crow about it. But the fact is that with approximately 2,000 council workers on its doorstep from 2015, the additional to-ing and fro-ing of local authority business, and with the promise of more businesses to relocate; all of a sudden the market conditions for firms thinking about taking on a City Sentral lease will prove very attractive.

In sum, the City Council move is about realising value for public money, boosting economic performance and jobs by concentrating consumer purchasing power in the city centre, and providing the sorts of office space business requires. Okay, while this is all very fine and dandy, what about Stoke Town? Presently over a thousand workers sit in the present Civic Centre, the cold hole that is Swift House, and Swann House. The primary concern of many of the participants in Save Our Stoke is that the disappearance of council workers will kill the town centre and a number of the businesses that inhabit it. For some living around the town centre it feeds into the perception that Stoke is being run down for Hanley's advantage - especially as nearly all the potteries based around Stoke that leant the town some lunchtime vibrancy are long gone. Then of course is the small matter of what happens to the council property to be vacated? There are no guarantees the Civic, and Swift and Swann Houses will be snapped up by some eagle-eyed developer, and even if they are what happens then?

While it is easy to understand these concerns, because of the city-wide regeneration strategy Stoke Town will be in a better position in the long run. It has been reported that the City Council's assets have received 29 expressions of interest - in other words, one can be reasonably confident that these will not be mothballed for years on end and it is very likely council workers will be replaced by employees from some other organisation. But failing that, even in the worst case scenario of these standing empty, as we have already seen there will be hundreds of new permanent residents on the old Victoria Ground site. An additional block of housing is due to begin construction in the Butler Street area too. And as the University consolidates itself in Shelton, there will be the overspill of thousands of extra students and associated businesses. As the council moves out, they and their spending power will be replaced. In other words the small renaissance the town has experienced in recent years is unlikely to even notice the change.

Ultimately, these are the reasons why, for the first time in nearly 18 years of living in Stoke-on-Trent I didn't support a demonstration for an ostensibly supportable cause. I certainly think our Labour Party and the City Council have to do a better job explaining the council move and its part in an overall regeneration strategy. I think the whole process has to be as open to public scrutiny as projects of this kind can be. But that does not negate the move and the plan of which it is part.

The pledge to create more jobs was the centrepiece of Labour's 2011 local election campaign. And undertaking the work necessary to realise that promise is what Labour is now doing.

48 comments:

Boffy said...

Phil,

Sorry, but I have to say I'm not convinced. But, even if I were I don't think that the concentration on these big centralised developments are the way socialists should want to go. Have you been to the new hospital recently? Its a nightmare just trying to find your way around it.

But, economically it doesn't seem likely to be successful to me. City centre retailing is dead. It was already on life support faced with out of town retail developments, even in the times of debt fuelled consumerism. Now when everyone is "de-leveraging" i.e. trying to reduce their debts, and when online shopping is killing bricks and mortar retailers, its only existing in zombie form.

There are 150 national retailers on the verge of going bust. HMV etc are just the tip of the iceberg, whilst according to 3R, the insolvency practitioners, there are 150,000 zombie firms employing about 2m people, that cannot repay the capital on their loans, and hang on only due to record low interest rates, and forbearance by banks. Many of these will be retailers too.

As retail capital gets crushed, many of the logistics firms tied to it will get hammered too.

But, this tendency also ties in with the move from big centralised Fordist organisation, to decentralised, specialised Neo-Fordist organisation. The real move will be to create flexible, quick on their feet businesses.

MEIR LAD said...

What about the Potteries Shopping Centre?

Boffy said...

The irony is that in the post-war period one of the problems Stoke faced was its elongated and decentralised geography stemming from its political history as "Five" Towns. That mitigated against the development of big efficient, Fordist solutions. Public administration remained divided across the length of the city, rather than centralised in one large building; retailing for a long time saw one town competing with another, before Hanley came to dominate, communications were hampered because of the lack of any large central hub, resulting in the main arterial backbone, the A50 becoming sclerotic, and in danger of causing the City to have a heart attack.

But, today, all those things could be advantages. Efficient, flexible service provision requires services, especially public services, to be close to consumers. Decentralised administration today would then be an advantage.

The more retailing goes on line, the less need there is for large retailing centres. In fact, Gillian Tett in the FT a couple of weeks ago, reported on the huge interest there was at the WEF, about moving Education provision out of schools and Universities, and on to online. That has already happened in Singapore.

The future for education is not these old dinosaurs, but geographically decentralised, flexible hubs, that connect education with development, like the Science Parks do, but increasingly focussing on the development rather than the education and training.

Moreover, the history of housing in increasingly sclerotic Cities, demonstrates that to deal with problems of high-cost housing etc. not to mention anti-social behaviour, they will have to be broken up, and Marx's vision and that of people like William Morris, of removing the division between town and country needs to be advanced.

iannorris68 said...

Boffy: one of those companies on the Brink is Labour MP for Rochdale as Experian class them at Maximum Risk read his views here http://menmedia.co.uk/rochdaleobserver/news/s/1587929_mp-calls-for-rethink-over-150m-rochdale-regeneration-deal

read their company reports here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9r22iv19qumsqcj/VcekeDTMdA

Our MPs are worrying Silent on the matter apart from saying they have been given assurances from our Council

Boffy said...

Just one further point. I was quite interested in the idea of buying a house for £1. But, the problem is that even at that price - plus the £30,000 plus you would need to spend to renovate the house - there are likely to be few individuals who will want to make the first move into a derelict area. Were I developer, I might have been interested in buying all 30 houses for £30, to avoid that problem.

Better still, would have been for the LP to have encouraged the establishment of a housing Co-op, and sold all the properties to them for £30, provided them with a £1 million interest free loan to renovate them, and then let them set up their own Co-op Housing Association to maintain and manage the properties, as well as creating more of the same in the area!

iannorris68 said...

Cllr Bagh Ali attended one of our meetings in Longton, but his arguement was, that without the Civic Move Realis wont be investing £350m into City Sentral, well these tweets from MD of Realis Duncan Mathieson said other wise on 19th June 2012 "I don't believe we do need the CBD however the councils vision to create a vibrant city centre will b seen positively by tenants"
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215196888843034624

"M&S is agreed just needs to be legally finalised. This is in hand and will not be influenced by CBD going ahead."
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215422898507231234

So it would be refreshing if you could back up your arguments with some solid reports from say a soft marketing of the CBD you have done to gain numbers of expression of interest in the site.

Here are some of the possible alternatives to borrowing £55m for a new Civic Centre, based on the consultant reports that would have been in front of you when you all (I exclude non Labour members as the consultant report where possible kept from yourselves) were deciding on the best option for Job Creation in the City from the money available.

Can you please provide information or facts that you feel justify your choice of the £55m for a new Civic Centre, over investing in Stoke upon Trent.

Every one I have spoken with says Stoke upon Trent is the ideal local for a business district with its excellent transport connections. I've mapped the development sites https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=201846045521649927944.0004d62a25e396cea2125&msa=0&ll=53.003835,-2.174263&spn=0.017535,0.045447 in stoke and the Civic Centre is but a fraction of what is on Offer
Its not just residents either, but the Investors themselves. Genr8 have been marketing CBD for 3 years and had ZERO interest, the council markets Stoke for just 2 months and claims to have 29 interested companies. So why try and force a CBD in Hanley when its natural home is Stoke
The 2 highly paid Consultants reports also promote Stoke for this purpose
The £160,000 URBED masterplan http://urbed.coop/projects/stoke-town-and-spode-works-masterplan Says
"Why not adopt a continental model that sees a large city centre with a series of quarters, and indeed a wider conurbation made up of a network of urban villages?"
"The vision for Stoke Town is therefore as a city centre quarter including the University, College, Station and administrative hub. The Town Centre and the former Spode Works site will thus become the heart of this quarter and a focus for its activity"
If you even look at the City Council page http://stoke.gov.uk/ccm/content/regeneration/city-regeneration/mandate-for-change-pages/building-a-great-city-the-central-business-district.en which attempts to promote the Move to Hanley you'll see how they also acknowledge the linkage the the university boulevard will create

Then of course the infamous "King Sturge" report that recommends keeping the Civic Centre in Stoke, which Councillors seem unwilling to be questioned on.
So no the alternative is not a nostalgic, backwards looking proposal. It is one based on common sense backed up by the reports to our elected Councillors by highly paid supposedly expert consultants
Go have a look at the 3 options from URBED on the last page of their report http://media.urbed.coop.ccc.cdn.faelix.net/sites/default/files/Stoke%20Masterplan%20Report%20part2%20Vision%20and%20Options_0_1.pdf

Then come argue that the Council needs to spend £55million to kick start regenerations. It clearly doesn't it just need to accept part of that regeneration for Convention centre and offices will be in Stoke not Hanley
Let Hanley remain and prosper as the Retail centre, the mayor £350million scheme by Realis will kick start the Retail explosion.
Let the Private sector do what they do best and let the Public sector manage its services to the public

Anonymous said...

Cllr Bagh Ali attended one of our meetings in Longton, but his arguement was, that without the Civic Move Realis wont be investing £350m into City Sentral, well these tweets from MD of Realis Duncan Mathieson said other wise on 19th June 2012 "I don't believe we do need the CBD however the councils vision to create a vibrant city centre will b seen positively by tenants"
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215196888843034624

"M&S is agreed just needs to be legally finalised. This is in hand and will not be influenced by CBD going ahead."
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215422898507231234

So it would be refreshing if you could back up your arguments with some solid reports from say a soft marketing of the CBD you have done to gain numbers of expression of interest in the site.

Here are some of the possible alternatives to borrowing £55m for a new Civic Centre, based on the consultant reports that would have been in front of you when you all (I exclude non Labour members as the consultant report where possible kept from yourselves) were deciding on the best option for Job Creation in the City from the money available.

Can you please provide information or facts that you feel justify your choice of the £55m for a new Civic Centre, over investing in Stoke upon Trent.

Every one I have spoken with says Stoke upon Trent is the ideal local for a business district with its excellent transport connections. I've mapped the development sites https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=201846045521649927944.0004d62a25e396cea2125&msa=0&ll=53.003835,-2.174263&spn=0.017535,0.045447 in stoke and the Civic Centre is but a fraction of what is on Offer
Its not just residents either, but the Investors themselves. Genr8 have been marketing CBD for 3 years and had ZERO interest, the council markets Stoke for just 2 months and claims to have 29 interested companies. So why try and force a CBD in Hanley when its natural home is Stoke
The 2 highly paid Consultants reports also promote Stoke for this purpose
The £160,000 URBED masterplan http://urbed.coop/projects/stoke-town-and-spode-works-masterplan Says
"Why not adopt a continental model that sees a large city centre with a series of quarters, and indeed a wider conurbation made up of a network of urban villages?"
"The vision for Stoke Town is therefore as a city centre quarter including the University, College, Station and administrative hub. The Town Centre and the former Spode Works site will thus become the heart of this quarter and a focus for its activity"
If you even look at the City Council page http://stoke.gov.uk/ccm/content/regeneration/city-regeneration/mandate-for-change-pages/building-a-great-city-the-central-business-district.en which attempts to promote the Move to Hanley you'll see how they also acknowledge the linkage the the university boulevard will create

Then of course the infamous "King Sturge" report that recommends keeping the Civic Centre in Stoke, which Councillors seem unwilling to be questioned on.
So no the alternative is not a nostalgic, backwards looking proposal. It is one based on common sense backed up by the reports to our elected Councillors by highly paid supposedly expert consultants
Go have a look at the 3 options from URBED on the last page of their report http://media.urbed.coop.ccc.cdn.faelix.net/sites/default/files/Stoke%20Masterplan%20Report%20part2%20Vision%20and%20Options_0_1.pdf

Then come argue that the Council needs to spend £55million to kick start regenerations. It clearly doesn't it just need to accept part of that regeneration for Convention centre and offices will be in Stoke not Hanley
Let Hanley remain and prosper as the Retail centre, the mayor £350million scheme by Realis will kick start the Retail explosion.
Let the Private sector do what they do best and let the Public sector manage its services to the public

Ian Norris

Anonymous said...

Boffy: Genr8 are one of those companies on the Brink, Experian rate them as Maximum Risk and Labour MP for Rochdale has raised serious concerns for his councils involvement http://menmedia.co.uk/rochdaleobserver/news/s/1587929_mp-calls-for-rethink-over-150m-rochdale-regeneration-deal

you can read Genr8 Company Reports here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9r22iv19qumsqcj/VcekeDTMdA and comment from Company Watch

Our MPs are worrying silent on matter apart from saying they have been given assurances by our council

Ian Norris

Gary Elsby said...

Spin spin spin spin.....

Phil, you'll have loads of that shovelled down your head, mark my words.

It's up to the party membership (the bright bit) to forensically analyse their wishful thinking against hard facts and truths.

The shit ooming out of that cabinet on a daily basis is disturbing.

Anyone would think it's a new concept to higher educational attainment in this City.
Meredith tried to patent the idea that it was him and not Tony Blair who voiced 'education, education......'.
It was Meredith who managed to anger every living soul in the City on what should have been a good day for Labour.

New job creation?
Who the f*** are these people who think this is miracle in waiting, within their grasp.

Shut down Stoke-on-Trent and we'' get some new jobs.
What a bunch of absolute w******s.
As an attraction to people wishing to live here, but don't yet realise they do, we close all popular facilities beforehand.
Denials all round of a £100K bung.

Care Homes:
St Michaels is to close based on a lie put out by Labour's Cabinet.
They will do everything in the Community, they say.
The NHS realises that bedblocking at £500 per day is because old people cannot enter their own homes (even though Gwen Hassels care teams are already there BIG CLUE GWEN).
So the NHS pump £2M into the community to release bed blockers.

er.....how about pumping some of that money into St. Michaels GWEN?
oh, no.
Because Labour doesn't want to, you see.

I only hope that you are spinning because you wish labour to do well in the polls Phil.

We must all hope that on the quiet, Phil is like we were for 25 years and forensically pounding away at their lies and exposing them to their fellow members.

It won't be long before you start to theorise on why it was right to bomb Baghdad.
All part of the game Phil to shore up waining support in the suburbs.

For the time being though, I can sit back and watch a good attempt at spinning a wishful attempt at good news when not one of you points can be proven.

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March on Stoke said...

Phil you've hit the nail on head "the council believes it will kick start CBD" and " 29 expressions of interest" in Stoke. The CBD would create itself in Stoke and along with university Quarter would be great addition to City with little Debt to Council. except they might want to fund the bridge from spode to Stoke links to aid developer linking Spode and stoke Links

All supporter of the New Civic invited to Public debate either online or a public panel

Cllr Bagh Ali attended one of our meetings in Longton, but his arguement was, that without the Civic Move Realis wont be investing £350m into City Sentral, well these tweets from MD of Realis Duncan Mathieson said other wise on 19th June 2012

"I don't believe we do need the CBD however the councils vision to create a vibrant city centre will b seen positively by tenants"
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215196888843034624

"M&S is agreed just needs to be legally finalised. This is in hand and will not be influenced by CBD going ahead."
https://twitter.com/dgmathieson/status/215422898507231234

So it would be refreshing if you could back up your arguments with some solid reports from say a soft marketing of the CBD you have done to gain numbers of expression of interest in the site.

Here are some of the possible alternatives to borrowing £55m for a new Civic Centre, based on the consultant reports that would have been in front of you when you all (I exclude non Labour members as the consultant report where possible kept from yourselves) were deciding on the best option for Job Creation in the City from the money available.

Can you please provide information or facts that you feel justify your choice of the £55m for a new Civic Centre, over investing in Stoke upon Trent.

Every one I have spoken with says Stoke upon Trent is the ideal local for a business district with its excellent transport connections. I've mapped the development sites in stoke https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=201846045521649927944.0004d62a25e396cea2125&msa=0&ll=53.003835,-2.174263&spn=0.017535,0.045447 and the Civic Centre is but a fraction of what is on Offer

Its not just residents either, but the Investors themselves. Genr8 have been marketing CBD for 3 years and had ZERO interest, the council markets Stoke for just 2 months and claims to have 29 interested companies. So why try and force a CBD in Hanley when its natural home is Stoke
The 2 highly paid Consultants reports also promote Stoke for this purpose
The £160,000 URBED masterplan http://urbed.coop/projects/stoke-town-and-spode-works-masterplan Says
"Why not adopt a continental model that sees a large city centre with a series of quarters, and indeed a wider conurbation made up of a network of urban villages?"
"The vision for Stoke Town is therefore as a city centre quarter including the University, College, Station and administrative hub. The Town Centre and the former Spode Works site will thus become the heart of this quarter and a focus for its activity"

If you even look at the City Council page http://stoke.gov.uk/ccm/content/regeneration/city-regeneration/mandate-for-change-pages/building-a-great-city-the-central-business-district.en which attempts to promote the Move to Hanley you'll see how they also acknowledge the linkage the the university boulevard will create

Then of course the infamous "King Sturge" report that recommends keeping the Civic Centre in Stoke, which Councillors seem unwilling to be questioned on.

March on Stoke said...

So no the alternative is not a nostalgic, backwards looking proposal. It is one based on common sense backed up by the reports to our elected Councillors by highly paid supposedly expert consultants
Go have a look at the 3 options from URBED on the last page of their report http://media.urbed.coop.ccc.cdn.faelix.net/sites/default/files/Stoke%20Masterplan%20Report%20part2%20Vision%20and%20Options_0_1.pdf

Then come argue that the Council needs to spend £55million to kick start regenerations. It clearly doesn't it just need to accept part of that regeneration for Convention centre and offices will be in Stoke not Hanley

Let Hanley remain and prosper as the Retail centre, the mayor £350million scheme by Realis will kick start the Retail explosion.

Let the Private sector do what they do best and let the Public sector manage its services to the public

andyb said...




Andy Bentley You can find a response to many of Phil's points at the link below written nearly eight months before Phil produced this piece of Labour spin

http://www.stokesocialistparty.org.uk/2012/07/09/will-a-new-relocated-city-council-hq-create-jobs-by-attracting-businesses-to-stoke-on-trent/

Will a new, relocated city council HQ create jobs by attracting businesses to Stoke-on-Trent?
www.stokesocialistparty.org.uk

New Labour council leader Mohammed Pervez says in the Sentinel 6th July 2012, “T

andyb said...

Phil, In your article you wrote,

“The basis of opposition rests, in the main, on two key points. The first is a question of money. Moving the council to a new HQ will cost between £40-60m (funded by borrowing and capital receipts) for what, its opponents believe, amounts to zero demonstrable benefit. The second, particularly for businesses and residents in and around Stoke Town, is the fear the move will kill their town centr."

These two points are of course important but either consciously or unconsciously you appear completely unaware that the crucial question for the massive opposition that exists across the city is this:

that the Labour controlled city council is prepared to waste £59 million on a new HQ that is UNNECESSARY at the same time as carrying out £56 million worth of CUTS already with another £21 million to come this year to our MUCH NEEDED SERVICES.

In your lengthy article you only make passing reference to cuts when you say,

“Understandably, against the backdrop of austerity (the council will be cutting its spend by a further £20m this year) a move like this is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Phil, you left the Socialist Party telling us that your task was to build the socialist left in the Labour Party.

If the above article is the result of that work so far then I think you have some way to go to achieving your aim.

Gary Elsby said...

Labour Party members have been lied to at all times.

Is it any wonder that when they speak to us, with well intentions, they are then put out becauase we refuse to be soft soaped?

The story Phil blogs isn't a new 21st Century vision, it is a 20th Century vision that is moving along.

You have to be careful Phil, you are just spinning today's good news story.

It was us that put the University in Stoke.
Us that got £350m pumped into schools.
It was us that created a cultural quarter.
It was us built a shopping centre and pedestrianised everywhere.
We built up care homes and leisure facilities.
We built a new £650m hospital.
It's bollocks to watch the new vision like Grannies need teaching how to suck eggs.

Nothing new is going on here Phil.

What is new is the complete destruction of all public services being Labour led.

For the record, I hesitently, at the last minute, chose not to attend the march. But Oh I wanted to too.
I did not attend because two conflicting messages were put out.
1. Against the Civic move.
2. No confidence in this Council.

No1. could be interpreted as a refusal of regeneration and people such as myself dare not be seen supporting this (notice no real big hitters attended).

A 'No confidence' march would have raised 5000-6000+ easily and we would have operated along a bigger turnout.

I hope the organisers take this point on board if another march is on in warmer months.

Gary Elsby said...

Andy, you have to understand where Phil is.
He is inside the Labour Party, doing it the Labour way.
He is not inside the Labour Party doing it the SWP way.
That would be quite silly and possible a breach of the rules of membership.
To criticise someone for not being too SWP enough inside the Labour Party is stretching it.

Not every Labour Council is doing a JVL and shutting us down for a 'more business like approach' (for business rate collection).
A few may be, but Stoke-on-Trent sticks out like a sore thumb.
It's almost feverish.
It's obvious that there is no real internal opposition of any worth.
The Labour Group itself, is made up of weaklings.

Labour members will cling to any hope of jam tommorrow.
This is what Phil is doing.
He hopes that his involvement is worthy of a better tomorrow.

I have to (and would have done) questioned this vision based on a better rate collectiion.
Rates were last organised six Months before the financial crisis was called in 2008. This high rate is collected even now and is a false acccount of the true collpased picture (based on rentable values).
Five years on (2013) rates are again being re-evalued and are now to give a true reflection of business successes.

Tell me that business is doing better now that ever before?

This new rate will come into effect in 2015.

JVL bases everything on higher returns.

I can't be convinced because nothing fits.
Where is this extra money coming from that will benefit Stoke?
Keeping reciepts is Tory trick in reverse.

When it was good, they centralised rates.
Now it's bad, they want to give it back!
Moving the Civic Centre raises nothing and moving M&S 100 yards is the same.
A bus station moving raises nothing.

You want it to be better Phil, so do I and so do we all.

We can do it, and did do it better, without killing vital services to do so.

iannorris68 said...

Gary Elsby"1. Against the Civic move.

No1. could be interpreted as a refusal of regeneration and people such as myself dare not be seen supporting this (notice no real big hitters attended)."

We are not against regeneration be it on CBD, Stoke Links, Spode, Victoria Ground, Minton Hollins or council borrowing to invest in new jobs on those sites, either building Offices to lease or building the Bridge over A500

Simply against Stoke Council borrowing £55m to relocate jobs (think its reducing jobs too) to a new civic centre and the current one is fully functional

Hope you help make the next protest bigger, better and louder the warmer weather should help

Gary Elsby said...

Ian, I fully get where you are coming from, but the contradiction was certainly there.

If the march is primarily driven over a Town Hall move, then it begins to isolate anyone who considers it OK to do so.

A march of 'no confidence' allows protestors to be who they want to be and groups primarily concerned with shutting a pool will be included.
Those that are concerned about education, a bus station and libraries will also have a chance.

To me, it was obvious, that bigger players stayed away.

They would not have stayed away under a 'no confidence' flag.

I predict 5000-10,000 under that guide and basically any return criticism towards big hitters with political ambition, have a counter response on any chosen question.
Those people will bring bigger returns once their names are in the public domain.

Phil said...

Cheers for your comment, Boffy. I don't think retailing is on its way out, rather certain types of retailing are. I don't think the future is particularly bright for those firms fishing from the gadget/music/film/book sector, and clothing will see some contraction over the coming years, but those retailers that sell - for what of a better phrase - an 'experience', or stuff you cannot readily play with on an eby-style interface, I think they are the ones that will survive. Of course it remains to be seen what sort of business the new shopping centre will attract.

Phil said...

Re: centralisation and decentralisation of admin, the City Council are not centralising its front line services. Next time you're in Bentilee or the Abbey you will still be able to drop into the local centre. But its the consolidation of the back office stuff. Putting them together in a single or couple of buildings will realise a great deal of energy savings and efficiencies. I think you can still have that and maintain service delivery across the city's communities.

Phil said...

Re: Genr8, Ian, I know for a fact that Stoke-on-Trent Central's MP has looked into their viability independently of council assuarances and is satisfied they are able to deliver the project.

Phil said...

Ian, I'm not someone who has poured over every dot and comma of the plans, but I do accept the Stoke Town business district idea is at least a serious alternative. But I believe it would have been the wrong one to pursue for two reasons.

1. You contrast the expressions of interest of the Civic Site with the CBD site. The problem is this was after the packaging of the Civic with the Spode site - before that expressions were few and what was coming forward was the frankly unacceptable idea of an additional supermarket on the site. If that wouldn't have killed town businesses, I don't know what would. Hence your proposition only becomes a viable one if the council moves.

2. You build the CBD in Stoke and Hanley's decline continues. Realis will say what they have to say, but they know their project is more viable with thousands of workers on its doorstep than not.

What regeneration needs is a mixture of jobs for people with different skills sets and aptitudes. Siting the CBD in Hanley is, in my opinion, a better way of ensuring this happens than putting it in Stoke.

Phil said...

Thank you for your fine complement, Gary. The thing is ... I *know* you agree with the council move ...

Phil said...

Andy, I should've gone to Paddy Power and placed some cash on the character of your reply because I saw it coming from a mile off.

I know it's difficult for you to actually argue *for* something that isn't a campaign *against* something, so let's hear your plan for Stoke that doesn't depend on trying to repeat Liverpool City Council's unsuccessful campaign.

Gary Elsby said...

Phil, I can accept the hypnotism that you have been injected with at CLP meetings.
No more ice picks in the back of the head for you mate.
No more taking to the streets on behalf of comrades.

For you Phil, it is Coca Cola all the way. (JVL left the top job to further his career in Joke-on-Trent).

Come on Phil, you've sold out so far, that there is nothing else to sell.

How about another stab in the back of a blog?

'How Phil BC wants to fly a B52 bomber over Baghdad and bomb it into the stone age'

'How I axed Leon' blog?

I'm still quietly amused that it was me who first designed a plan for the HQ move. Three days later, JVL announced it.
What I don't agree with, is the way it is being funded. On that point alone, I nearly joined the march.
But I would have been a contradiction of myself and all I do is speak and write honestly with 'aims and values' very consistent with Labour.
That's interesting.
I see a whole Labour Group agreeing with me and they have 'aims and values' and I have none.
I could not be considerd as a Labour candidate, because I have no aims and values consistent with Labour and I'm 'anti Mayor'.

Try not to confuse my criticism of a working class party, closing like good Tories, and my reasons to abandon corrupt practices by the same working class party.

I battered away at them on a daily basis, internally, of which I had every right to do so and within every rule in the rule book.

When you lose 2 MPs and 30 Councilors soon, you will 'know' who has spent every single day attempting to do so.
It's called outside, pissing in.

iannorris68 said...

Phil are you positive on ths "the City Council are not centralising its front line services. Next time you're in Bentilee or the Abbey you will still be able to drop into the local centre." aren't all area offices under review they are certainly on King Sturge list for closure, with as view for relocation to 3 hubs Tunstall, Hanley and Bentilee?

Was any soft marketing actually down for Stoke Town or Hanley prior to the decsion to sell the Civic?

The Civic is but a small part of development options in Stoke, you said previous proposals were unacceptable. But we the public dont know what the current proposals are they too may be unacceptable, what then for the Council?

Why should Hanley's decline continue? Realis will bring in the retail revival, and increase the liesure facilities on offer which will enhnace and move Hanley Forward. Plus with employees using the Bus to get to the CBD in Stoke they will thus travel via Hanley. see the council plan for CBD Stoke and Hanley are both cogs linked via university boulevard.

If its Jobs we want then we should invest in bringing Stoke forward as a well connected development Option, if we want to invest in supporting retail we Borrow to build new building in Hanley.

Sorry Phil you've not convinced me its worth taking on such a depth to try support Hanley High St

Mark Walmsley said...

As Phil says, the Council needs to do a better job of explaining the reason for the move, and how the damage done to Stoke will be recouped by the city as a whole. I might be naive to ask but is there a link to their best attempt at explaining this, with some projections? Just want to hear the best case that be made before I decide.

Gary Elsby said...

The business case for the move of HQ from Stoke to Hanley is bog standard simple.

The Council moves to Hanley and other businesses move in as neighbours.
This means extra business rates and extra footfall in Hanley.

It fails, if the CBD is fiilled up with existing business and the footfall is not counted twice.

No extra business rates will be collected by an existing business relocating and the extra footfall is the same footfall as it ever was.

The real truth is that Pervez cannot tell his own Labour members how much cash is to be borrowed at high debt interest rates to fund what could be a pipe dream and gamble.

Don't worry though, we can pick up the tab.

Phil said...

Gary, take a lie down mate. The Mayoralty's been gone for nearly four years. And if I ever decide Blair was right on Iraq, I'll search Google cache and use your arguments from the recent past to back me up ;)

Phil said...

I'm not sure, Ian. Tbh I haven't been following the local centre scene too closely.

It is my understanding that some test marketing was done for the Spode site prior to the council move announcement. Though I haven't seen it, given the interest received at that point for Spode and the interest since with the civic parcelled in, I wouldn't be surprised if the result of that test went into consideration of the move.

As for Realis, they're not going to say anything other than all in the world is peachy. You know what companies are like. But it's common sense really. Stoke Town only has limited capacity for retail and is on the verge of having its future secured thanks to new build and the university. Hanley on the other hand does have the space to provide many more retail and office jobs.

Gary Elsby said...

Who told you the Mayorality has gone?
It's gone nowhere, mate!

This Labour Group is made up of Ex Mayor's and their support.

Why do you think a 25 year secrecy block was put on all of their emails?
To protect a businessman who went on the front page blasting it out that he wanted no protection and he wanted the cash and he also wanted to sue them (US)and take them (US AGAIN) for £25,000.

Are you for real?

As I've explained Phil, the reason (which I shall explain more fully in court when half of that Group is under oath) I was barred from being a candidate (1 year before tristram) was that I was 'anti Mayor'

We didn't have a Mayor because the public got rid of him and it.

This is why care homes shut without a working class voice in the chamber, or PARTY, shouting up in defence.

That lot tried it on us over Dimensions (the Group, yawn voted to close) but WE, the PARTY kicked their F***** arses.

Andy B and Boffy thought we were pussies doing nothing.

Always wrong.

iannorris68 said...

Phil the move was agreed 31st May 2012 just as the 3 year break clause in the Development agreement with Genr8 was due, so that either party could walk away if either had failed, Genr8 had failed in 3 years to get ONE tenant for the CBD, so for some bizarre reason our Cabinet of 10 job in and become anchor Tenants

26th October 2012 a soft marketing exercise was launched for expressions of interest in Stoke upon Trent with a deadline of 28th Nov 2012, this was then extended to 14th December. Officers are now looking at these expressions. so no the soft marketing of Stoke was not part of the decision to move the Civic Centre.

At consultation Genr8 were unable to give any time scales for any possible occupiers, hence the derelict land surrounding the new Civic is to be seeded as a meadow, as has happened over on Lichfield St housing developments.

We really need to know the plans for Stoke up Trent and if the Civic really needs to be demolished? Cause Looking at the availble site the Civic is really a piecemeal offering (got piecemeant from Realis it his Buzz word) https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=201846045521649927944.0004d62a25e396cea2125&msa=0

As you said Stoke can regenerate with the interest shown already and bring in the NEW jobs, where is the need to get in Extra Debt in name of Jobs?

Are you really arguing that the Council should Borrow £55m to try and take customers to City Sentral?

Genr8 failed for 3 years to get any interest
Stoke upon Trent took 6 weeks to get 29 expressions of Interest

Its clear to me job creation is best served from Stoke, let Realis bring Retail revolution to Hanley. or just let CSC expand fully

Phil said...

From Jason Hill via The Facebook:

Phil, what you have to realise is that if the Labour Group carries on as it's going at present, Labour will lose control of this City in 2015. What replaces them will, presumably, be an Independent/Tory coalition which will not only cut even more deeply than the present administration, but will also follow Staffordshire's lead in privatising council services. Now I would like to see Labour back in power in 2015, but that won't happen if they continue to lurch from public relations disaster to public relations disaster and render themselves unelectable. The current adminsitration are now widely seen as arrogant and out-of-touch: the latest PR disaster, which has underlined this impression, was the clearing of the public gallery on Thursday. What we need is a Labour council committed to socialist values and engaging with the voting public, not a bunch of yes-people scurrying round doing van der Laarschot's bidding.

Loz said...

I'm afraid Jason is right. Whilst I personally think Hanley badly needs a shot in the arm and would personally like to see the council operation move to the centre of the city, I think the timing of this move is very bad indeed.

I am finding it very difficult to find anyone who supports it outside of the Hanley business community.

Whatever the benefits, when you are cutting vital jobs and services and at the same time building plush new offices and giving the Chief Executive a big payrise you are basically handing the negative PR to your opponents on a plate.

I have heard the arguments that the cuts and new offices are not linked etc... It's similar to the arguments wheeled out by British Gas to defend bill rises versus increasing monstrous profits. At the end of the day, the arguments don't wash.

With the "Cultural Quarter" fiasco still relatively fresh in peoples minds, I am surprised Labour is sticking to its guns on this so avidly.

Gary Elsby said...

It can't be denied that those who oppose this Council of Mayors are hitting and scoring ever stronger.
It is arrogance that continues to ignore all consultations and public protest.
This Labour Council reminds me of the Major Govt final year and a half.
Full of secrecies uncovered, cash exposed, underhand dealings. It was sickening.
You don't yet realise Phil, that the whole mess is to protect that lot that tried to hide corruption by clinging to power.
Helped by an office 40 miles away.
They feed into the party that there is 'no other options'.

It is quite ludicrous to believe that the answer lies in a General Election victory for Labour.
You will hear that Labour in Stoke scores heavily on GE day.

It is even more ludicrous to believe that we don't know that.

Phil said...

Ian, I've made plain my position. The CBD move is about providing a job mix for our city. It will help boost the retail 'offer' on the new offices' doorstep, something that would not be done had the CBD been located in Stoke Town.

Regarding the soft marketing, I must have imagined the talk and controversy about the situation of a new supermarket on the Spode site. Also, bear in mind that the Civic Centre won't necessarily be demolished. If, for instance, the university are one of the organisations interested I'm sure they would find use for the building - as would a conference facilities group.

The question that everyone needs to ask is how best to rebuild our city and its economy to provide a mix of jobs, in the context of the overall regen strategy discussed in this post. I believe the council move will make a positive contribution to this, you don't, and ultimately that comes down to competing visions of the city over the coming decades (I will say that at least you have an alternative, unlike most of the vocal voices set against this).

Phil said...

Jason, I accept that you will see things differently to me due to our respective proximity to the administration. Where you see arrogance I see people doing their best trying promoting a regen strategy under very difficult circumstances.

Of course, all Labour councils should be more socialist and more engaging. That is why I am working to build up the number of local trade union affiliates to Labour and getting as many rank and file trade unionists into the party as possible. And to be fair to Pervez, he is committed to turning up to anything and everything to make the case for regeneration. That's not the behaviour of someone uninterested in what people are thinking and saying.

Phil said...

The problem with the move, Loz, is when would be the right time? 10 years ago the hoohah would have been much greater than it is now. 10 years from now would be too late.

I don't like it any more than you do. But sorting out the city's economy so it doesn't stay in the doldrums for another 30 years will require some difficult and unpopular decisions.

andyb said...

Above Phil says...

"Andy, I should've gone to Paddy Power and placed some cash on the character of your reply because I saw it coming from a mile off.

I know it's difficult for you to actually argue *for* something that isn't a campaign *against* something, so let's hear your plan for Stoke that doesn't depend on trying to repeat Liverpool City Council's unsuccessful campaign.

Alternatively Phil you could respond the issue of cuts which I raised. But ......

“Liverpool's unsuccessful campaign” !!!! What planet do you now inhabit!

Liverpool's SOCIALIST Labour council of the 1980's won £60 million from Thatcher's Tory government by building a mass campaign to support the programme on which it had been elected.

This mass campaign included two strikes of council workers IN SUPPORT OF the council. With the money won on the basis of fighting *AGAINST* the Tory's cuts they were able to build 5,000 affordable council houses *FOR* local people. More houses than all other Labour councils combined in the same period. Along with new nurseries etc this created 16,000 jobs.

That's four times more actual jobs than the dreamers you represent holed up in the CCB (City Council Bunker) at the Civic think they will create by moving 1,300 council workers a mile up the road.

Incidentally, on the basis of this magnificent record, the vote for Labour in Liverpool every year that Militant (today's Socialist Party) were in control increased.

Gary Elsby said...

Phil, you are losing it mate.

have a look around the City and you will see a massive change for the better that was instaled in spite of this lot who close it and wish it to bwe stopped in general.

You appear to be of the opinion that what is happening to rebuild an economy is a new concept.
It's just nonsense.

The City has progressed massively over the 30 year period you mention.

Retail, education and leisure has expanded 100 fold and we even moved a council HQ a few times.

Don't fall for this closet Tory agenda of a mayor who we kicked out (but not removed).

The manuacturing sector is screwed and any Government continues to screw us down on cash.

To sum up what you lot hang your political nouse on is, a HQ move, a shop and more business tax.

That's a shit peg to hang a coat on, if I may be so blunt.

Have they hypnotised you of the belief that we critics have no answers yet?
We are all clueless numpties, out to knock Labour?

They know better than that.That's why they do what they do.
They run a Conservative agenda, nothing more and nothing less.

That's why Labour will lose 30 seats in 2015 (plus 2 MPs).

Pervez, Meredith, Garner and a few others will survive.
Call them what you like.
Stupid, they are not.

Jason Hill said...

Phil, sorry to split hairs, but I did not say that the Labour Council was arrogant, but that it is widely perceived as being arrogant. My point was that this widely-held view has been reinforced by a series of public relations disasters, such as (to name the most recent) the clearing of the public gallery and the award of a pay increase to van der Laarschot. Your proximity to the administration, which you boast of, is actually a problem, as you fail to see the wider picture of how the administration is perceived by the public out there. The Labour Party in this city seems to be hell-bent on rendering itself unelectable in 2015, yet you bury your head in the sand.

Gary Elsby said...

We kniow Phil, that the West Midlands region has entered the City again and offering good tidings.

They have been most upset that the 'chosen one' has been nailed by the press and they want their protege restored to invincible power.
In other words, the WM wants to make sure of its votes in any meeting you have attended.

Undoubtedly they spoke of even better campaigning methods and promises of even more help.

What really happened was:
An order has been issued to grab power and control from the front. It appears that the Deputy leadership is being sought by the WM.

If I attempted to write how Labour should commit suicide in Stoke-on-Trent, all I would do is copy and paste what is actually taking place.

Did you go to the secret meeting Phil?
Nope.
We don't have to.

Gary Elsby said...

If you don't know how it works Phil, it goes like this.
In 2015 Labour will enter the campaign here in Stoke and put out all sorts of stuff.

The WM region will look after it's favourites though.

They will identify the vote (that you have identified)and put out their own stuff via mailshot.

Their favourite former Mayor will need little help and neither will the other Mayor sychophants (who by miracle, now hold down the top positions).

So when you think the campaign is about to open up, be assured that it started a Month previous and during.

Those not inside the fold have to work harder. They also have to fend off 'closures' in their respective wards, or some other public gaffes (deliberately) put out by WM toadies.

Worked out why Dimensions was up for closure immediately prior to an election, yet?
Why care homes closed in certain wards during the run in?

We know that they are at it again Phil. That's why they came here a few days ago.

Phil said...

Andy, there are two matters you fail to consider when discussing Militant’s running of Liverpool City Council.

The first – getting a bail out from central government – was won while Thatcher was dealing with the small matter of the miners’ strike. As with other disputes or potential disputes of 84-5 – Nacods, dockers – the government settled so they could concentrate on the main enemy. Liverpool took place in this context. Once the strike was over there were no more concessions and your comrades found themselves removed from office a few years after.

For those interested in critically analysing what happened, it would be reasonable to conclude that your “success” in getting cash out of Thatcher was a one off that occurred against the backdrop of the most important class battle since the General Strike. Yet you and your comrades don’t appear to acknowledge this at all. Instead it has become a position that is always applicable regardless of political circumstance, balance of forces, and the ability of the labour movement to directly confront government in that way. It’s a shibboleth for you as much as state capitalism is for the SWP.

The second point is Liverpool demonstrates that you can’t borrow money to run services. 5,000 council homes were built and local public services expanded on the basis of loans. After you were ejected from office, the City Council spent the next 25 years paying off the debts you ran up, and the services were progressively withdrawn.

You can call Liverpool a victory if you wish. But the withering of your Merseyside organisation and poor electoral performance from your high tide suggests the city’s working class think otherwise.

Gary Elsby said...

Phil, find out who's doing the abroad trips on behalf of the City sometime soon.

Looks like the WM Region have put the stoppers on the usual City representatives, Mayors and Deputy Mayors.

Yep, you've guessed it, the WM favourite photocopy boy is to be promoted for the forthcoming putsch for the Deputy (backed by their favouritest MP).

Please....I beg you to let this happen.....then sit back and watch us have some fun.

Phil said...

Jason, I was not boasting. I simply made an observation based on my role in the local party.

As someone who's been knocking on doors, reading the Sentinel, listening to Radio Stoke, and watching council meetings I know what people are thinking and saying. I also know that if you take the time to explain why this is happening most people will listen. True, they may not be convinced. But taking that time goes some way to tackling the widely-held views a lot of people have toward the council.

Phil said...

Gary, keep smelling the conspiracy salts.

Gary Elsby said...

Whatever you say,Phil.

I spent a lifetime recovering from the Thatcher onslaught into this City, but we stood rock solid against that intrusion. OK, she shut our pits, but we took a cheque off her to transform this City into something JVL, Pervez,the 'chosen one' and Labour Party (circa 2013) would rip their own arms off to get.

This Labour Party (not to be confused with the one 1900-1910)takes no money from the Tories, screws the City taxpayers and shuts everything in its path.
Joke, mate.

I don't have conspiracy theories, Phil.
I don't run Labour and I don't run City official timescales or foreign trip abroad to represent the City.

I certainly haven't planned the forthcoming trips to:

Erlangen (bicycle run),
Lidice (wreath laying),
Cannes(promoting 5 star hotels).

The press have been informed.
Conspiracy?
No.

It's looking quite sinister in Stoke North.
More soon.