City Council to review City Centre night time economy

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Mohammed Pervez has asked for a task and finish group to be set up which will tasked with carrying out what is being call a comprehensive review of the city centre’s night-time economy.

The task and finish group will be made up of a number of city councillors who will work with businesses, visitors and licensees. They will collect information on the current night time economy of the city centre and make recommendations for future improvement. Continue reading

Heresy or carrying a torch for Wightman

Doubtless the next week will be full of commemorative events regarding the Titanic sinking. However for those interested in free speech and free expression then April 11th– the day that I write- has significance. For today is the 400th anniversary of the last person to be burnt at the stake on the charge of heresy and he was a Staffordshire man. Edward Wightman went to the stake on the 11th April 1612 at Lichfield. He was a businessman and local Baptist minister in Burton. He also had business interests in Uttoxeter and Cheadle. Continue reading

The irrestible rise of the part time worker?

The figures on the economy have disguised the major increase in the “midworker” an increasing number of people who work part time because the job markets remain flat. There has been a 45% increase in part time workers since the recession began. New research says that the number of people who have taken part time jobs because of the lack of full time jobs has increased to record levels. It may well lead to a generation of workers in jobs who can barely enough to meet expenses. Researchers suggest that this growth in midworking costs the economy £9 billion.

The think tank the IPPR says the recession has hit the poorest hardest. Employment for people with fewer than five GCSEs has fallen by more than 8% since the recession began ““ far higher than other groups ““ and the thinktank says Britain’s experience is likely to mirror the US, where there is much higher “underemployment” among less educated, lower skilled and lower income households. In the US, studies have shown this contributes to a “high and rising degree” of income inequality and growing poverty.

It’s been pointed out that more than one in five involuntary part-time workers are aged between 16 and 24. Young workers in particular are victims of this growing trend and there is danger that their long-term employment prospects will be badly affected. The large number of underemployed workers does not attract as much attention as those who have no work at all, but this hidden phenomenon is in many ways just as big a problem.

Economists also say that a number of factors have led to the rise in midworkers. One is that firms have held on to workers during the economic downswing, preferring to cut hours rather than numbers. Another is that more generous tax credits have given rise to in-work benefits, which could end up subsidising part-time work. When I read History at York I read of a system of social welfare called the “Speenhamland” in which bread to use lowering wages. I have always felt that the present WTC/CTC schemes are the modern day successor

Today Sentinel rather proves the point where many of the jobs advertised is part time especially in social care, teaching and nursing. My view is that we cannot build the base for the future growth of the area on such a fragile base.

The Leader Debate, Radio 4 and the Baddeley Green Working Mens Club

Tony, Anthony, Steve and I took part in a Radio 4 discussion on the final Leaders Debate. We sat in Baddeley Green Working Men Club with researchers and production staff from the news programme “World Tonight” and after the end of the debate were asked our views on how we thought the debate went.

Before the debate started the four of us were profiled. Anthony spoke of the local situation from his club in Baddeley Green. Steve who is an unemployed 18 year old described his search for work. Tony of the problems in the local manufacturing sector from his engineering company. I was interviewed in Leek from the Transition Town project in the Quaker Garden that I work in. I was asked about the failure of the traditional parties to address some of the structual problems in North Staffordshire.

We assembled in the club in good time for the debates started at 8.30pm. I took copious notes as the subject areas as they came up although they were not really used. As the subjects came up, the deficit, the banking crisis,taxation welfare reform, manufacturing sector, immigration and creating a more equal society as well as the others. I was struck by how much more combative the event was compared with the other two debates. The leaders constantly stressed their key themes. Clegg on “fairness” , Cameron ” Change” and Brown ” the fragility of the recovery”.

Both the Labour and Tory Leader zeroed in on Clegg on issues such as immigration and Europe. Brown attacked Cameron with the refrain ” Same Old Tories” especially about the need for cuts. Cameron sometimes sounded more left wing than Brown attacking Brown for sucking up to the banks and for the growing inequality in the country.

I was especially interested in the section on manufacturing. Brown wanted to create 400,000 jobs in the low carbon economy and the need to grow certain areas of the economy in bio technology. Cameron spoke about the need to grow the entrepreneurial spirit. Clegg gave a list of policy commitements on the subjects of building affordable houses and a green economy. I thought that Clegg won this part of the debate.

On the immigration where the politicians became more animated. Clegg came under fire over the amnesty question from both Cameron and Brown. Clegg responded by saying that this was a problem created by the two big parties. He made the intersting point on dealing with organised crime and the trade in people. I would however give this round to Cameron.

Affordable housing. Brown spoke of the need to get the banks starting lending again. Cameron on the need to cahnge the planning laws and the need to reward responsibility and Clegg bringing empty houses back into the market and , hurrah, the need for social housing. I would have given this to Clegg.

Welfare Reform Brown said that there sould be no life on the dole a view that was reiterated by Cameron while Clegg said that work needs to pay by increasing tax thresholds.
I would give this one to Brown.

Social mobility and education. Brown gave a folksy anecdote about his mother, Cameron a rather cheesey thank you to teachers and Clegg on the growing inequalities and stunting life chances. I would have given this to Clegg as well.

After the debate ended we were asked our opinions. I thought that Cameron had scored a hit on Brown over the 10 pence tax issue. The others gave it more clearly to Clegg although overall over the three I think Clegg won. No one rated Brown.

Mean while life went on around us. People played pool, sometimes there were shouts from the TV room were people were watching the Liverpool game and behind us the hum of converation.

However I do think that the debates have galvanised the political process and made people talking about politics and the elections which must surely be a good thing

Stoke-on-Trent’s Economy Faces Big Challenges Despite End Of Recession

Commenting on the preliminary GDP figures for the fourth quarter 2009, published today by the Office of National Statistics, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Stoke Central, Norsheen Bhatti said: 
"The figures published today are positive but not so great and well below expectations of many economic analysts; we are far from being out of the woods. Coming out of recession also doesn’t mean that our debt crisis is over – far from it. Labour’s debt crisis is the biggest threat to our recovery. 
The report published today by the House of Commons West Midlands Regional
Committee tells us that even though the regional economy is expected to ‘technically’ move out of recession, the downturn will continue to have an impact on people’s lives for some time to come." 

The report also highlights concerns that some areas that would most benefit from additional government funding may not have the capacity to bid for it and may be losing out, especially in relation to housing and activities around learning and skills. 
Norsheen said: 

"Our main aim now in Stoke-on-Trent must be to ensure that there are opportunities for all and regeneration projects will benefit everyone in the city. I am especially concerned as figures show that 1 in 5 of the city work force is out of work that’s the highest proportion of working age people out of work in the West Midlands. We must ensure that our young men (16 – 24 age group) are not forgotten and provided with skills and training, 
We must also make sure that people whom are facing debt and are having
difficulties paying their mortgage or rent have access to the appropriate and adequate support and advice. " 

City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative’s call for more to be done to help our City

James Rushton, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Stoke South, has said more must be done to help the City through the recession.

Responding to yesterday’s Centre for Cities’ report, which shows that the recession has widened the gap between UK cities economies, James said: ‘I am saddened by the recent figures released in the Centre for Cities report. They are even worse then we possibly imagined and show the true extent of the damage done to Stoke-on-Trent by Gordon Brown’s recession. But it is young people who are bearing the brunt of the current job crisis and the Conservatives will work hard to give them every opportunity to get into work. The Conservatives have a bold plan for the West Midlands, which would create 55,000 new training places and jobs, including 22,500 new apprenticeships, all aimed at opening up new opportunities across the region.’

‘These new jobs and training places will be funded by refocusing the Government’s employment and training programmes, including Train to Gain and the various New Deals, and reducing the benefits of Incapacity Benefit claimants found to be fit to work. We will also abolish tax on the jobs created by new businesses in the first two years of a Conservative Government, by ensuring they will pay no Employer National Insurance on the first ten employees hired during their first year.’

Conservative plans to Get Britain Working will create 55,000 new training places and jobs in the West Midlands, opening up new opportunities for people across the region. They are committed to creating:
22,500 new apprenticeships in the West Midlands
11,000 extra training places in the West Midlands
9,000 new work pairings in the West Midlands
5,000 new jobs in start-up businesses in the West Midlands by abolishing the national insurance they pay on new employees
4,000 new young apprenticeships in the West Midlands
3,500 new opportunities for self-employment in the West Midlands
1,000 new university places in the West Midlands


Comment by Alison

On the eve of Bank Holiday Monday, I would like to ask everyone out there a simple question ““ would you like another one?

I’ve been doing a bit of research into this, and the Government has been talking for years about the “possibility” of an additional bank holiday being added to the calendar. There’s even been polls to identify the possible date or time of year which would be most popular. Well, the talking goes on, but as far as I am aware, no additional date is forthcoming.

England has 8 bank holidays, which, compared to most of our EU counterparts and some other countries, is pretty lousy. Northern Ireland has 10, Italy has 16, Spain and Portugal 14, Germany, Austria and the US have 13, and France have 11. Only the Netherlands have the same allocation as England. Doesn’t that make you feel a bit short-changed? Particularly when you couple this with the UK having some of the longest weekly working hours throughout the EU!

There are many employers who would be unhappy that they’ve got to give the workers another day off, with arguments of cost and efficiency being cited. But some of the most successful economies in the world seem to manage OK ““ Japan, for example, give their workers 17 bank holidays. There’s even a school of thought which says productivity improves around a bank holiday, which more than compensates for the time off. The Government, of course, says an extra bank holiday would cost the economy £2.5 billion.

Regarding possible dates for the Holiday, a TUC Survey of 20,000 members established that 41% would prefer a day in late October for a new Bank Holiday. Almost a third opted for St George’s (23 April), St Andrew’s (30 November) or St David’s Day (1 March). Around 11% chose New Year’s Eve, while other choices included International Women’s Day (8 March), Trafalgar Day (21 October), and Armistice Day (11 November) ““ my personal preference.

So, what do you think? Do we “deserve” an additional bank holiday? In the current economic climate, could businesses and the economy afford it? If you think we do deserve a day, which day would you opt for? Tell me what you think”¦.