Monday, 3 November 2008


Danny Flynn is Chief Executive of Stoke YMCA, a man who I know is passionate about local community issues and has the interests of the people of Stoke very much at heart. Danny is a member of the Transition Board being set up to "transform politics" in Stoke on Trent, and to oversee the recommendations of the Governance Commission.

In what I hope will be the first of several articles detailing the work and aims of the Transition Board, Danny tells Pitsnpots why he agreed to be a part of the Board:

"I have been asked to sit on the Transition Board which has been set up to help oversee the political changes happening to the governance of this great city. My first action as a new member is to write this piece for pitsnpots blog. I could start by listing the briefing I received from the Minister of State, but I think to pigeon hole the role and function of the Transition Board before it has met would be 'putting the cart before the horse'.

However, I think the fundamental challenge in this city is to reconnect leadership to the people. Which in my opinion has been a fundamental problem that has dogged this city since its birth, and a heritage from the days of when those clever bosses (leaders) invented “piece work” which really said to employees “you only count for what you do”. I think we all count for “who we are!”, and I think that has to be the heartbeat of the Transition Board. To help bring in the cultural changes needed in this city to help to develop a place where all individuals matter and more importantly feel that they matter.

To put it in football terms, I am a Stoke fan and was so proud when we got promoted. And to read that we are the most enthusiastic noisy fans in the Premier League, (even louder on Saturday) makes me even more proud, but I also celebrate when Vale win and want them to succeed! What happens to my neighbour matters to me!

The Africans have an expression called Umbuntu. It means “I am because you are and you are because I am”. 'We' make this city great, not 'me'. I just add my bit.

Daniel Flynn"

I would like to thank Danny for taking the time to write this article and giving us his perspective on the Transition Board. I know there are lots of you out there who aren't happy with the introduction of this Board. What are your thoughts?


nita said...

I would like to thank Danny Flynn for his article.

From the comments he makes, it would seem, that this Transition Board can bring some positives to the City. The Governance Report, did not make for good reading, and it is clear to us, that the Council needs to act upon the recommendations, and start to work with the people, to move the city in the right direction.

I am a little puzzled, as to why, certain people do not welcome this Board. Instead of thinking that these people are coming in, to try and trip them up, why not do something positive, and work together.

brooneyes said...

We do not buy into this liberalism
that this board wears round its collective neck like an Olympic

One of the fundamental problems with this country has been the
onslaught under which our societies have changed because of the changing population. No-one denies the change, but these liberal leftists see it as a good thing, whereas more and more of the population see it as something thrust upon them by the liars and cheats of Westminster. The problem is that these are the very same liars and cheats that have forced this board upon us. So what we have once again, is a display of the disdain in which the Labour party holds the people of this country. They don't care what you think, they don't care what you want, they know best, and you're getting what you're given!

But they don't know best, far from it. If they did, they would know that the answer to Stoke-on-Trents problems lies in re-balancing the power from the hands
of Napoleon Meredith and his pet CEO, to the 60 elected councillors chosen by the people to represent them. We don't need a board of
farleft loonies, all theory academics, and some well meaning business folk telling us what we should do. It is exactly this leftist interference that is dragging things out. There should be a vote of "no confidence" in Merediths moneygrabbing cabal, the candidates for leader should have to explain their policy ideas for the four year term, and it should be made legally binding that what they say in their campaigning, be it written or spoken, they have to stick to! No switching parties half way through the term. If you want to change, there can be a by-election, but this will be at the cost of the party you intend to move to, otherwise it's wait until
the term is up.
If you can get the leader to implement changes along these lines, then there will be a chance to save this city, and that's why I keep telling you that what you need is the BNP!

Clare White said...

I'm happy to introduce myself as well as another of the members of the Transition Board.

I'm a resident of Burslem and recently started managing a health education project in the city for the WEA, but before that I ran a newspaper called Local Edition with a brilliant group of volunteers. Our aim for that was to provide a communication forum for people in Northern Stoke because we have no localised media outlet, and it continues online along with a spin-off website Stoke Sounds.
I'm also involved in quite a lot of community and residential groups in the area.

I've never been involved in party politics but I have always taken an interest in politics. I responded to the call for people to meet the Governance Commission, asking to give evidence about my experience as a resident and journalist. I've got some wider experience in governance issues as part of a youth peacebuilding network that works internationally (Never Again International, if you're interested...).

I love Stoke-on-Trent (especially Burslem, obviously) and like a lot of people here I feel strongly that ordinary people deserve to have their voices heard more. I'm a long-time blogger and it's been great to see so many more people in Stoke connecting and expressing their views online over the last year or so.

Like Danny I wouldn't want to pre-empt our first meeting by saying more about what my thoughts are on what we might be able to do, but my understanding is that some of the fears about it being a board with a lot of power is not what was outlined in the Commission's report which the council voted to pass (it really is worth a read if you haven't yet). With a mixture of people from different organisations with a lot of grassroots links, hopefully we can make sure that the concerns of ordinary Stoke people will be heard by the government and councillors. We need as many structures to do this as possible, so I don't think the setup of more structures, more websites or anything else will be harmful to the process, only positive.

Sorry for the long post, I won't say any more because I don't want to sound like a politician, but I am happy to stay in touch and if I can, help ensure there is more openness and transparency than has been the case before.

Alison said...

Clare, thanks for this post, and welcome to Pitsnpots. Thanks for making yourself known another member of the Transition Board.

If you have been following our blog, you will know that we are trying to get more people in Stoke on Trent interested in local politics and local issues, because we feel there is a lot of voter apathy out there, and people seem to think that, however they vote, it won't make any difference.

We believe that people in Stoke CAN make a difference, and hope that using this blog as a debating vehicle, we can raise awareness of issues which affect all of us in Stoke generally.

Your input is particularly welcome, as most of the Pitsnpots bloggers are from the South of the city, so another blogger from the North helps balance things out a bit!

If you would like to email us (the pitsnpots email address is on the home page), and keep us updated along with Danny on the work of the Board, it would add to the awareness of people in Stoke in terms of what this transition board will bring.

Also, if you have any other issues you think Pitsnpots can highlight, please email these to us as well.

Thanks again.

nita said...

This Board is clearly not being put into place to be a dictatorship, and I am getting a little sick of the negativity coming from individuals, who seem to have something to fear, by these people being put into place.

We are constantly told we need change for our schools, yet certain members of the Council don't seem to want to work with anyone other than themselves.

If the Council had been run properly in the first place, we would not have ended up with all these recommendations.

Claire White, thank you for introducing yourself, and wish you the best of luck, with your involvement on the Transition Board.

Shaun Bennett said...

I Suppose like many I was rather hoping for some idea of what the so called 'Transistion Board' was actually hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, I was dissapointed by the lack of clarity of what exactly this board is FOR, what it can DO and why we NEED it. However, at this stage, I'm prepared to suspend my worries until it actually meets.

The members of the board are-I'm sure-very good people with knowledge of their areas, and I'm sure they can bring a lot to the city in whatever way they are supposed to be doing it.

Nevertheless, I do note the 'leftist' bias that has been pointed out and I have to say that I'm still rather concerned about how this board came into being. As I have said previously, there seems to have been no discussion about it, it wasn't made clear during the referendum that a transition board would be established if we voted YES, and there seems to have been no vote anywhere on it.

It seems that the minister of state has taken it upon himself to appoint these people without any consultation whatsoever. But still we don't know WHY!

If the board is to have no power at all then its a waste of time isn't it? And if it is to have some power, what right does it have to exercise it? Are the members being paid for their time and efforts, and if so, how much and where is the money for that coming from?

At the moment there seems to be many unanswered questions surrounding this transistion board which we look forward to being answered. I fully understand if the board's purpose is simply to oversee the transition from Mayor to Leader, and to give impartial advice or guidance; but does it then need that many members?

With all of these questions hanging in the air, I'm afraid that I can feel nothing but wariness at the undemocratic way in which this board suddenly apperaed one day, and the purposes of it. No doubt it shall all become clear in time, but I certainly hope that we don't have to wait too long for clarification. The board will risk running out of goodwill from ordinary city voters if they wait too long.

Shaun Bennett said...

Having just read Nita's post above mine, and feeling that my comment may fall into this negativity for the sake of negativity category, I would just like to clarify.

I agree with all of her comment that if the city had been run better before, then we would'nt even need to discuss it. I also agree that councillors have become to wrapped up in their own town hall world and haven't reacted well to external interference over the last few years.

I also agree that this Transistion board MAY be a very positive thing for the city if it is to give advice and guidance.

But at the moment we just don't know what it is for, what its powers are, or what its mandate is for being. As such, short-term caution and fears are I think justified.

nicky said...

Thanks for your input Danny and Clare.

It seems to me that myself, Craig and Shaun may be glass is half empty people and Nita may be a glass is half full person. Alison? Think you may be tending towards half full.

But the thing is, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Also I think a level of pessimism comes with life experience in many areas, if we've seen these type of things before we can more easily see them coming the next time. As Craig put it so graphically on another blog, now interpreted more moderately, as we've had to suffer under Meredith's regime these last few years, we're wary that another lot may be about to take over the dictatorship. And as Craig and Shaun point out, it is government appointed left tending people on the board, which does nothing to help dispel any notion that this is all about imposing government will on us.

Shaun, the governance report says this board will be there for 3 years in the first instance (para 5.31 on page 40)! That's a heck of a long transition.

Danny and Clare, just bear in mind that the last thing we need is to be told what we want, look at our other comments, particularly on the transition board issue and take in what we say.

I wholeheartedly agree with Craig that the answer lies in re-balancing the power to the 60 elected councillors chosen by the people to represent them. That's the simple basis on which to proceed.

Now I've some questions to ask about this board. How often does it meet? Can the public attend as observers as they can at most council meetings? Do transition board members sit in on council meetings? Does the board publish its advice to the council so we ordinary folk can see it? Will the board ever meet with ordinary folk? Is our council tax paying for it?

Alison said...

Nicky, you are right, my glass is always half full, otherwise I wouldn't be able to retain my sunny disposition!

I would like to think that this transition board can have a real influence on making the councillors properly accountable to us, the voters, the important people of this city.

So yes, I'm a "glass half full" sort of person, but I would like answers to the questions you pose as well...

nita said...

Nicky and Shaun, you make some fair comments. I am sure, you are right that the majority will be wary of why this Board is being put into place. I do understand why Councillors may not welcome this Board. To them, it is saying we at government level don't trust you to sort out our recommendations yourselves.

The point I was trying to make, was instead of starting off with a negative approach, try and work with these people, and some positives may come out of it.

What I do not understand is, how the Councillors did not know anything about this Board being put into place. What happened to consultation?

Gary Elsby said...

I'll keep my comments on this simple.


Anonymous said...

I'd also like to introduce myself as a memebrof the Transitional Board.
I'm 43 yeears old and a mother of three.
I left school with no qualifications and after attending night school for seven years, I have successfully completed a vocational course on knitting.

I feel that I can bring many attributes to the way Stoke should be run as I've watched every programme that Richard and Judy have ever put out.

What we nee in this City is good old COMMON SENSE!

What is obvious to me and to everyone as far as China, is that anyone who is elected in Stoke, has no commonn sense at all.

Only us on the Transition Board have what it takes to do things right.

Councillors are a bunch of idiots and only go into politics for the cash. I will do this for free.

I want to see that this Council gets itself out of special measures in Social services and Schools.

We can do this
......doing what the Government tells us and to ignore the Directors of SS and Schools (at least thats what is written here)

Stoke isn't a deprived area at all. It's awash with money such as Manchester and Birmingham could only dream about. Jealous bastards!
Its them Councillors and Officers that are crap.

With the same money, we-the Transistions- can turn this City into a paradise. Free this, free that etc..

We don't need the people, councillors, MPs or democracy, all we need is us. Perfect!

The people are the MPs, Councillors and we are the democracy for which we serve, but you are all crap and only us is good. So there!

Shoot all critics, I say!

Ta ra.

nicky said...


Yes I fully agree that the initial step ought to be to work with this board as they are there and council did approve the recommendations including that they will be there and the secretary of state has been allowed to choose 'lefties'.

But I'm saying be ready to argue if necessary. Experience shows that being nice and cooperative doesn't necessarily work. We know that for example from the schools fiasco. The TAG tried being nice and cooperative for a long time, and indeed we still are if it seems like it may help, there is a TAG meeting with council and PfS later this month on pupil numbers. But in the end we are ready to take the council to court if they persist in their lunacy, I think that is the right way to go. People may be bored with the schools example. But believe me there are other examples I've encountered in the rest of life but there are limits to the things I would want to say on the web.

Sometimes it feels like you might as well short cut and just fight everybody. But that would curtail other options so I don't think that is right.

But I firmly believe that the first approach is to be nice and negotiate and use all the reasonable arguments, that may work and it is good when it does. But I think it is then the right approach to build up to being dead stroppy, sometimes that does work so it's worth doing. And if you don't you just tend to get doormatted. Even if it doesn't work it's still important to try everything.

Hugh said...


"What I do not understand is, how the Councillors did not know anything about this Board being put into place. What happened to consultation?"

They knew - and put forward candidates for the Board. What I don't know is how many actually bothered.

Anonymous said...

Q....and the qualification to 'sign off' is?????

A. being nice.(nita)

our man on the inside said...

I can confirm that Hugh is correct. The leaders of the political groups on the council were given the opportunity to put forward names for the Transition Board, but the final decision on the membership was made by John Healey.

It's worrying that the only person on the board with any experience or knowledge of local government is Mike Tappin, whilst there are other members with religious interests, the chief executive of the local YMCA, and the former editior of a failed newspaper in the north of the city. Not a very encouraging lot!

nita said...

Anonymous. You state, qualification to sign off, Nice (nita)?? Do explain your comment?

Anonymous said...

Shaun Bennet asks the right question. What is it there for, why do we need it.What's its power?

Answer? To 'Sign Off' the Council's policy.

Q. Who do THEY answer to?
A. John Healy

Q. What if John doesn't like what this City does or wants to do?
A. Instruct not to 'sign off'.

Q.Who runs Stoke, the Mayor (school shutter) The Council(mish mash of intrigue)?
A. John Healy.

Q. Elected Stoke Councillors (people's choice) run Stoke for stoke?
A. No.Central Government for Central Government via John Healy.

Q. Is the Transition Board made up of nice people (Nita)
A. Adolph Hitler was rumoured to be nice with children.

brooneyes said...

Anonymous, the transition board answers to the Secretary of State,
not Healy.

Anonymous said...

Possible names that our local politicians put forward for the Transition Board:

Lee Wanger - Gary Glitter

Peter Kent Baguley - Kim Kim Jong-Il/Fidel Castro

Albie Walker - Josef Mengele

Mick Salih - Forest Gump

Shaun Bennett said...

What's that anonymous? Not my friend Roger Ibbs??? (almost missed the r off the word friend then!)

I hope that the board will be able to do something good for the city, but at the moment without knowing its purpose, powers or democratic mandate I'm going to reserve judgement.

I find it a little astonishing that this board is to exist for the next 3 years; I thought the transistion was over the next 6 months? It seems that the board will exist up until the full council election on the new boundaries in 2011. Is the 'transistion' in the boards title therefore going to be that one?

If the board is to exist until the new slate of councillors take office in 2011, why get rid of it then? Surely the new councillors will need someone to hold their hands in the early months as they learn the ropes? How do we know that this board won't become a permanent feature of our local politics for the forseeable future?

A bit odd then that nobody seems to know what its for, what its mandate is and whether its a paid body? Where I do agree with Nita though is that councillors shouldn't really be complaining about it since if they'd done a better job we wouldn't have needed the board at all!

Gary Elsby said...

Totally agree, Shaun.
What happens in 2011 when we're bored with the board and naughty Councillors have learnt their lesson?
Get rid of it? Then what?
Laughable in the extreme, amateurish in its intent.
Undemocratic nonsense commonly known as a quango.
Paid, I'll bet. They always are.

Shaun Bennett said...

Absolutely Gary. If theres an argument for having the board now, surely the argument will still be there in 2011-depending on what it is actually for.

And if we don't need it in 2011 despite the reasons for having it still being there, then we don't need it now do we?

Oh danny boy! said...

Just give us the money and shurrup!
We deserve it.
We're instructed to hold the hands of Councillors but all Lee Wanger wants to do is hold my hand and I'm over 12!

gobowen said...

I thought a Transistor Board was a Printed Circuit. All components linked together by copper threads. A driving force at one end and a fixed outcome at the other. Inflexible but easy to short circuit.
With the make up of this Board it has every likelihood of burning itself out either at prayer or extolling its own virtues as an all inclusive group. Who on earth would want to be inclusive with a DUMPED MEP and REJECTED CITY COUNCILLOR.