Saturday, 4 October 2008

THE REFERENDUM - THURSDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2008


Well, i've just received my Polling Card for the Referendum on 23rd of October. Now, I don't know how many of you are the same, but I keep changing my mind on what to choose. I can only think, that at least with the Mayoral and Cabinet System, we the people get to choose. On the other hand, do we the people think that the Mayoral system has been a success? We could say Yes on some issues, but No on others. If we choose a Leader and Cabinet, who will this person be? Bearing in mind that every party will put a candidate forward, then there will be a Council vote. Who would you the people hope for, as Leader? What Councillor springs to mind, in your opinion, that can take this City forward? Then we have the Mayoral System. Who would you like to see put themselves forward, Mike Wolfe for example? Is there someone out there, that fancies giving it a go? Let us know? My son votes for the first time, and have tried to make the point, that he should take an interest, and use his vote. After, trying to explain the difference between the two systems, he said, "well the mayoral system sounds good, as we can choose, but then again wouldnt it be a good idea to have a change, so I'm not sure yet". How many people have got 18 year olds, who are voting for the first time, and have had similar discussions? My fear, is, that because there has become a total lack of interest in local politics, if the parents have this negative attitude, will this rub off onto these young men/woman, who will adopt the attitude of, well it really doesn't make a difference, so I won't bother. Having said that, having listened to many people's opinions, they do firmly believe that their vote won't matter, or make a difference to changing how the City is run. In people's words "they're all a waste of space". Now I would not be so critical. There are some excellent Councillors who work hard for their wards. I've had a look on the Council Web, and many sit on various Committee's, (and I don't mean Council), and do a lot of work for the community. So, maybe we the public can be a little harsh at times. There could be some major decisions that have been made, that will sway how people vote. There is the controversial BSF Programme, and the closure of the care homes, and even the debacle when Dimensions faced closure. We at Pits n Pots would urge every citizen of Stoke on Trent, to use this vote, as this does matter, and will affect how your City is run. What to choose is a different matter. Please join the debate, and give us your views.

40 comments:

nicky said...

Happily for me this particular vote will be easy. Unlike the 'political' elections for which it could well be a very difficult choice in the case of the European elections, possible mayoral election and next general election. The next local council election could be a little easier perhaps.

But I do know that I will vote YES for leader and cabinet on 23rd October.

I personally found the information the council sent out about the pros and cons of the two systems very useful. In many ways there aren't too many differences between the two systems. But the one crucial factor which makes the two the most different is the amount of power given to the person at the top.

In the mayor system the mayor has the ultimate power and gets to keep that for four long years. Yes it might seem nice and democratic that you get to have your say and vote for a mayor, whereas you wouldn't vote for the leader. But the trouble is once you have had that vote for mayor, they are then free to do whatever they like for the next four years. You don't necessarily know ahead of time what they will do, they may not have said anything about it in their election literature, then you are stuck with them. Mayor Meredith is a prime example who shows how this goes, although the new mayor system wouldn't work quite the same it would be very close. But I have to point out I wouldn't be voting YES just because I don't like Meredith. It is because the system itself allows too much power no matter who the person is.

In the leader system, we can't directly vote for the leader, but there is that very important structure in place which allows councillors a vote of no confidence in the leader if they are doing badly and not being representative enough. Therefore if we don't like what the leader is doing we can lobby our own ward councillors (or councillor in my case as the other two are no good)and possibly others to get rid of the leader and put a better one in place. They can do that at any time. Just having that system in place will mean the leader is less likely to get power hungry and ignore councillors because they know what the consquences will be. I like that system better.

I know I am being negative, but look at it the other way. If the leader or mayor were a great person and was someone doing the things I agreed with, it wouldn't really matter to me whether they were a mayor or leader. So it only really matters in the negative situation which is why it is the one to consider most.

Nita says if there is a leader every party will put a candidate forward, but do we know that this is the case? I wasn't so sure that it had been decided how the leader would be chosen amongst councillors as yet?

Nita asks what leader or mayor would spring to mind as being a good one. Well to me it's not quite as simple as that. For leader I wouldn't have to choose anyway. For mayor it would be a case of careful watching the campaign, looking at their policies and plans and to some extent their personalities and past record if it is someone we know anything about. I would do all that if there were a mayoral election but then I know from past experience that's not necessarily going to get the right person.

So I'd be quite happy with a leader so I didn't have to vote. But if it were a mayor, I would vote, I'd just have to make the best decision I could and hope they were good.

Vote YES on 23rd October.

Sir Findo Gask said...

Elected Mayor...

Is there anyone in the council that could take on the role of leader? At least with an elected Mayor we the public get a say..

dangermouse said...

i will certainly be voting, i will be honest & quite frank, i do not wish to have mr meredith around any longer & will vote for a leader & cabinet system.
i have no trust or confidence in a mayor alone, especially when it comes down to spending public money & being totally unawares as to a head n 80 teachers not being in the country, while parents have to pay out extra childcare costs.
( sorry guys gettin cross again)
role on 23 oct n lets get stoke back on track.

nita said...

Nicky, thanks for your comments. I'm not entirely sure how the Leader will be chosen. Im going on what the general public is assuming. It may be that the party with the majority of Councillors, put leaders forward? It could be, as Ive said, every party chooses a Leader candidate, then a vote? Im only guessing on this. If there is anyone out there that can clarify these questions, please feel free to do so, it will help us the public to understand more. Sir Findo, I can see your point, who would that Leader be, who would they choose? Dangermous, I agree totally, it is alarming that a school, has been allowed to spend a vast amount of money on a four day training trip, without the knowledge of our LA, supposedly. The money has been spent, and then to cancel it, with no firm guarantee of a refund just beggars belief. They may as well have gone. An apology from the Head, to the parents of the school and the public would have been nice. The only reason it was cancelled, was because of the high media coverage. No problem with the school itself, I have to say. Feel sorry for the staff, as they have no choice on whether to go or not. It will be very interesting, how the public votes on 23rd October. Keep up the debate........

Sir Findo Gask said...

Nita,

If it is an elected leader they will be taken from within, from what I have seen and more what I have heard from people closer to the city council than I am, there is nobody who is up to the job.

The various parties will start making deals to get a 'figure head' in place who can be manipulated.

There is a post on here about the BNP putting a candidate forward, Nick Griffin or A N Other, in a mayoral race. The BNP will have a better chance of getting an elected leader than a mayor because of the political deals done in council chambers.

If it is an elected mayor the people of Stoke will vote and will be responsible for who gets in. I don't think the BNP will have as much chance of getting the position as they would with the leader option.

We could do worse than having Mike Wolfe as mayor...

Anyway I'm on holiday so I'm off to look at the clearance villages and the handiwork of the Duke of Sutherland up here in Caithness.

Anonymous said...

I think its important we don't mix-up the new Mayoral system and what we have with Meredith now , the Mayoral system will change and we can vote against Meredith if he stands.

The thought of the likes of Ibbs or Garner becoming the council leader scares the pants off me so I'm going to vote for the Mayoral system.

At least with the Mayoral system whoever stands will have to face the public as themselves and not as a behind closed doors , self interested deal maker which is where the council leader option takes us.

Alison said...

I am undecided on this one. I know I will definitely vote on the day, it's just that, at the moment, I don't know which way!

As I have said before, when we vote, we won't have the faintest idea WHO we are voting for, only which system we want. So, I can hear you all shouting at me - if the system is right, the process will be right.

Well, when Mike Wolfe was Elected Mayor, I thought the Mayoral system was right, and that finally Stoke had turned a corner and we could start to get things done. However, when Mike was deposed at the last Mayoral election, I believe things have gone from bad to worse. Mayor Meredith is in fact a one-man Labour dictatorship.

So my concern about voting for the Elected Mayor system is that we might be stuck with Mayor Meredith for another 4 years, where he will wreak further havoc and devastation, particularly on the BSF process.

My concern about voting for a leader and cabinet is again, we don't know who we will get. It could quite likely be Roger Ibbs OR Joy Garner. Having read Nicky's post, I aren't sure she'd be too happy if her vote for a leader and cabinet had helped Roger Ibbs become the Leader of the Council! But we all have a choice, and it looks like she's made up her mind, which is more than I can say for myself!

I take Tony's point in his original article - there are lots of councillors doing lots of good work and sitting on other committees other than those which are their legal duty, but I still don't think I would be happy with any of them leading the city.

The issues for me are that we, the public, get to vote for the Mayor, whereas 60 people behind closed doors get to choose who will be the Leader of the Cabinet. I still don't know which one is best!

So at the moment, I really don't know which way to vote.

If someone can help convince me that a Leader and Cabinet are the best way forward, then please post on this site.

Alternatively, if you can convince me to vote for the Elected Mayoral system (which worries me if it's giving Meredith another 4 years - and as far as I am aware - it could!, then please post also.

Any comments and clarity gratefully received!!!

ian norris said...

Really the pro leader campiagn should annonce who they will nominated as leader. That would help give a greater understanding. From my understanding nominations can come from any councillor for which ever councillor they support, and then Full Council would vote.

nita said...

Ian, you are right. It would be most helpful if the pro leader campaigners, gave the public, an idea of whom will be the likely candidates. Likewise for the mayoral candidates. It seems a little daft, to spend so much money on this Referendum, asking us the public to choose, when we have no idea who our vote could be supporting. To be honest, Ive changed my mind so many times, come the 23rd, it could be like lucky dip, ha ha.

Hugh said...

For the first time in my voting life, I really don't know which way to vote. I don't want either system! My problem is that, in both cases, the leader or mayor appoints the cabinet - which is open to political patronage. If there were assurances that the cabinet would be compiled of the most able and knowledgeable councillors, for instance a former teacher holding the education portfolio, I would be happier.

At the very least we ought to have an assurance that members of the cabinet would be chosen in proportion to their party's representation in the council, so that the unholy cabal that governs the city now would not again be able to scupper any opposition to their diktat, as was so vividly demonstrated by their actions in the council last Thursday.

Unfortunately, the third option "Neither of the above" was not permitted to us. When faced by the long-winded question in the polling booth, am I to be honest, or do I vote tactically?

My honest answer to the question "Do you want a leader/cabinet" is NO, mainly because the word is going around that the so-called Alliance will put up one Mr Roger Ibbs as their candidate, and with their inbuilt majority, we would be in deep doo-doo. But the answer No causes the election authority to assume that I want an elected mayor. I don't. If the returning officer were allowed to take the bold and unprecedented (and probably illegal) step of declaring that spoiled papers would be considered to be a vote against both options, we would have a truer democratic voice.

I'm afraid that I am totally disillusioned by the manifestations of political parties in SoT. However much some of the contributors here would disagree, I still maintain that all councillors should be free from central party control - i.e. truly independent - so that they can properly represent the wishes of their constituents. When a councillor has to toe the party line, the only losers are the electorate.

This referendum is a farce. We are not even being given the right to spoil our papers with impunity - that can only realistically be counted as a vote for an elected mayor. Were we guaranteed proper apolitical representation, the choice would be much clearer.

Having lived in several African countries for many years, I am aware of the value of a democratic vote. Not voting, for me, is not an option. In this particular instance, the question of how to vote is becoming a nightmare.

What to do? Don't know. HELP!

Gary Elsby said...

Hugh, what was the 'party line' during the Dimesions fiasco?

Please state which party you mean and whether you include party membership in you description.

Gary

Sir Findo Gask said...

I think we should start a Mike Wolfe for mayor campaign....

Hugh said...

Gary,

There wasn't any real "party line" during the Dimensions events - It was the Executive and the EMB against others. Two councillors were suspended from the Labour party for disagreeing with the budget that supported the closure. Various councillors supported our fight, from all across the political spectrum, as can be seen from the photos on the Dimensions site.

I do not, nor ever have belonged to any political party. As I was brought up on a farm, I suppose you could describe me as a tory with a social conscience (please note the small t). I believe in various policies put forward by various parties that fit in with my beliefs. This gives me a bit of a headache trying to pigeonhole myself - I passionately support the right of people to hunt foxes, but loathe the destruction that Mrs T rained on this country.

So, in answer to your question, I suppose I mean all political parties. As to party membership - everyone has the right to their own political beliefs, hence I have no problem with that, just as everyone has the right to belong to a trade union. What I object to is the slavish following of a "party line", for want of a better expression, without room for any local discretion.

Hugh said...

Sorry, it's getting a bit late for me! "I believe in various policies put forward by various parties that fit in with my beliefs" doesn't make sense!

Maybe "I believe in different separate policies put forward by varied parties that fit in with the way I choose to lead my life" might be better.

I'm going to bed now before I write more rubbish - I'll catch up in the morning.

Gary Elsby said...

Hugh, every year 20 seats are up for grabs.

If 19 of those candidates (Labour) will vote against any closure of Dimensions and 1 follows the 'party line' as you put it, would it be a fair electorate that shouts in newspapers that 'the Labour Party wants to shut Dimensions'. followed by.....(waait for it)....'Kick out this Labour Council'.

Do you see the dilemma?

The electorate should analyse each candidate and stop this nonsense of party line.

The party line changes at each change of council and those causing damage are weakened and removed.

Gary

nicky said...

Alison made a point that a vote for leader might lead to Ibbs becoming leader. And anonymous rightly says the thought of the likes of Ibbs or Garner becoming the council leader scares the pants off him/her. But on the other side of the argument people say Ibbs could become mayor. It's interesting that both sides seem to agree that Ibbs is the worst possible outcome. If this view is widespread then he shouldn't become either. If it were him, I'd rather he was leader than mayor, because as leader we could make demands on our councillors to get rid of him but if he was mayor we'd be doomed.

In the other article on the BNP and as sir findo gask says here, it is rumoured that if we have a mayor then Nick Griffin may stand (although I would have thought they would choose a local councillor as I'd guess many BNP voters do so because of local experience). Now supposing we only had two to choose from, Ibbs and Griffin, I know which way I'd vote! However happily if there is a mayor I'm sure there will be plenty of other candidates including hopefully some decent independent ones. Hell, maybe I'd even stand! A lot of people talk about the importance of who may or may not stand as mayor. And in some cases past experience of them makes them just too awful to contemplate. But in most cases the important thing is their policies, so until we know both who it would be and what their policies are and how that fits with our own priorities it is hard to say how we would vote, well I would find it hard to say anyway.

Sir findo gask and others also question that there is anyone in the council who could lead it. I actually think there is, I think there are more than a handful who would be quite suitable. I have quite a high opinion of many of our councillors in fact, I think they do a lot of good hard work in our city, it's just that the best ones don't seem to get on the EMB. So this is either because of a flawed system or for some reason they get a personality transplant when they go on EMB. As I do not know all our councillors that well and some I have more experience of than others, I wouldn't really like to name my entire list of favourites as I may miss some good ones. So perhaps I'll limit myself to just one favourite for leader and that would be Peter - death to academies - Kent-Baguley. I'm right with you there Peter. Except I won't get to choose and I doubt somehow that many councillors would choose him. That is going to be the big challenge for the leader, to bring together the diverse range of councillors views. Most councillors will want one of their party to lead but it will only work if they can be tolerant towards each other's views (and I find it hard to imagine having to tolerate the tories).

Here's a system; single transferrable vote with the option to list all those willing to stand as leader in order of preference. This is the system used in ballots in the union that I'm a member of. Maybe that would be a system for councillors to use for choosing leader?

Alison said...

I think Nicky and Gary have convinced me which way I need to vote. It all seems a lot clearer now.

I am going to take Gary's advice on the Bus Station article, where he tells me to listen to what councillors are saying over the next couple of weeks. I will try to do this and see what happens between now and the 23rd.

Hugh said...

Gary,

Yes, I understand the dilemma perfectly.

Your comment "The electorate should analyse each candidate ..." is exactly what I mean. If there were a series of hustings arranged before each election in each ward, the electorate would be able to do this. In this way, the people could find out exactly what each candidate thought about local issues. There is absolutely no need for political party membership to come into the equation.

If this system were instituted, I believe that councillors might be able to start working for the good of the city and of the people rather than for the good of their particular ideology. If there were some policy put forward in, for instance, a budget, they would individually be able to vote with their conscience. Good policies automatically garner support; those surrounded by secrecy and dogma arouse suspicion and distrust.

I know how I would prefer to be governed. Maybe my Utopia is an impossible dream?

ian norris said...

Gary Elsby, why bring up Dimension again when we all know the committee voted in favour, although the Labour chaired voiced CONCERNS at the privitisation of swimming pools (recorded in the minutes availble online) and then has the never to denounce the closure, just like they are now denouncing the closure of City Farm which again was voted through. Thats why we need a Strong Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Mike Wolfe!!!!

Anonymous said...

Could I ask a question , if we go for a council leader is the post for a fixed 4 year period ? If so what happens if the council leader is no longer a councillor part way through the 4 year period?

So for example, Cllr A.Liar is voted in as council leader (due to the unholy alliance that currently exists). 12 months down the line a ward vote the person out as their councillor , does the person remain council leader?

If the council leader has to be a sitting councillor then you can see a situation where a particular ward would have a disproportionate amount of power in the city (because they can vote the council leader out at the next local election and could use this as leverage).

If the council leader sits for 4 years even if they loose their councillor status then you could see a situation where a ward could be acted against out of spite (for voting against them).

Or are we saying that once someone is council leader they are no longer councillor for the ward that voted them in and a new councillor for that ward has to be voted on?

Sorry if I should know all this but the leaflet that was sent out doesn’t explain much!

brooneyes said...

Surely, for educated people, there can only be one choice? Who in their right mind would vote yes?
Doing this means you will end up with Roger Ibbs or Joy Garner running the council, and as a diehard BNP member and activist, even I can't believe that some of you are that stupid.
The fairest way would be to let the people decide who they wanted to represent them, but if you do vote for a mayor, could we have a heterosexual this time please? A
family man or woman, and not someone that can't even get the reproductive process right.

Anonymous said...

Is Ian Norris thick or what?
Doesn't he yet realise that Dimension and the City Farm (+others) were deliberately grouped together so that each one couldn't be voted on in isolation?
Those demanding the retention of Dimensions were jumped on by those wanting the City farm saving. That's why Labour councillors had to vote to shut the lot.
Anyone with half an ounce of sense would see that this was a DELIBERATE act by the Mayor to keep out Labour candidates from winning the election who would then set about dumping him over schools and care homes.
Meredith introduced the dimensions closure only a few days before the elections.PATHETIC!
It was a deliberate political act to scupper any opposition to him.
This idea was pulled a few days AFTER the election as being a TOTAL FINANCIAL LIE.

MEREDITH is aiming to win the referendum by using the circular which was sent out to all households asking what they thought of the Mayoral position. He knows who wants to keep the Mayor and who doesn't.

A scandal using tax payers money.

Get real Ian Norris.

brooneyes said...

Gary Elsby.
Do tell Gary, was that your wife in the paper, and if so, just how often does she go out in her car to run lamposts down?

ian norris said...

Anonymous: errr it is the JOB of scrutiny commissions to SCRUTINIZE reports esp the BUDGET.. They do NOT have to vote for them otherwsie thats not scrutinizing. if they was against either Dimensions or City Farm they move a recommendation for either more information or for it to be removed from budget. not difficult But they never. WHY?

Tony said...

Craig, What the hell are yo on about now dude? Have you been at the cooking sherry again?

Anonymous said...

errr Ian, it had nothing to do with shutting a paddling pool. It had everything to do with stopping opposition to Meredith getting in!
The £60,000 shortfall to close the pool was never there in the first place and even if it was, it is too small a sum to actually close it.
Now do you understand or do you want me to spell it out?
Meredith loses power the more Labour councillors win.
He has ultimate power by running a hybrid cabinet that no-one supports.
...and still shuts schools, care homes etc..
Labour members want Meredith out at all costs.The position of Mayor goes against local democracy.It is a falsehood to suggest that a better person wil make a better Mayor.
That is quite ridiculous and revolves around wishful thinking.

ian norris said...

anon : the plan to have Dimensions to be run by private trust goes back to 2001. Labour Councillors knew about it and then try to deny where does that get them, expect by those sucked in

brooneyes said...

Sorry Tony, lol.
There was a report in the paper last night about a woman drink driver. Just winding Elsby up, that's all.

ian norris said...

Anon: just re-read your post, trying to make out what you believe the hidden agenda is. It seems your say the Scrutiny Commission delibratly passed a flawed budget, knowing they could over turn it in the press, making the cllrs look good and mayor and exec look bad? which is infact a much worse scene then any of us could imagine

brooneyes said...

Ian Norris.
There are 3 citizens who are at this very minute involved in a fight with the officers of the finance dept over criminal flaws in the Audit. The cover up rate has gone in to overdrive as finance, and parliamentary try to paper over mistakes. For one, this council has been claiming certain things as assets, when clearly they were no such thing. That distorts the audit report and the
believed financial standing of this council.

ian norris said...

Whys ANON gone quiet, either Scrutiny Cllrs messed up or they attempted a massive spin which if planned would be extremely damaging to the council and Councillor that first passed commision budget and then moved referendum question. ANON spell it out what are you saying?

ian norris said...

The 3 individuals may want to look into the £4.3m overspend on TNB since first reported to DFT and GOWM in June 2007 but yet its never been reported to Cllrs. The Reason I recieved from officers on 15th Sept 08 is (i never seen this agreement before)

Ian,
The appropriate approvals have been given for funding the cost increases on TNB
- this is part of the management of the capital programme. The DfT have provided additional funding of £2.93m due to the unforseen nature of the cost increases.

The exact total cost of the bypass will not be known until all works have been completed and the payments have been agreed

Regards

Stuart

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that Ian. I'm saying that my friend who's brother was a candidate is saying that Meredith deliberately introduced a last minute proposal to shut Dimensions to which was stupid because it was a financial lie. The cost was approx £60K.
It was not short of £60K and therfore dropped days after the election.

Result? All candidates that were onto a winner were hammered for attempting to shut Dimensions. THEY WEREN'T. THEY WANTED TO KEEP IT OPEN.
Meredith continues to this day to employ Tories and 'independents' to roll out his disgraceful package.

Is someone actually saying that the financial department got it a bit wrong? (for who exactly?)

ian norris said...

Sorry ANON that clearly doesn't make sense as Cllr Comway Chair of the commision that agreed to close Dimensions and City Farm was re-elected, and it was not last minute as they was in the budget back in January 2008.

ian norris said...

Oh and the Fact plans to close or set Dimensions up as a trust go back to 2001

brooneyes said...

Ian,
I'd heard prior to the story breaking that it was closing, that Dimensions would stay open, and was nothing more than a diversionary tactic. There also exists a survey by a company called Armstrong.... something, that shows that hill pitted with
mineshafts and marl holes. It must have been noted that the hill was not an outcrop of pure coal, so making that part of the deal was stupid too.

ian norris said...

The point remians its was the Cllrs on scrutiny commsison agreed to close dimensions and city farm and then the SAME Cllrs Cry fowl in the press saying they want them kept open and attempt to blame Mayor. Yep price of Coal dropped and added to costs as they couldn't make as much as they wanted to make from selling it on.

Anonymous said...

Ian, Dimensions was dropped and wasn't supposed to return.
It was a few weeks before the election. Why?

ian norris said...

Who dropped it why and when, the January minutes show no records of it being recommeded to be dropped? Now if Cllr in January had recommended it removla and it was approved official to be dropped and then re-submitted without going back to committee thats a different matter.