Please accept my apologies for my belated answers to the questions from MyTunstall contributors due to my recent illness.
After spending an initial three days in hospital I've been in and out several times during the past couple of weeks in addition to receiving care from the district nurse at home. It's only in the past couple of days that I've been able to sit at a computer comfortably to complete my answers, but I'm glad to say that I'm now on the mend.
What are the biggest problems facing this area?
Anti-social behaviour is clearly a problem in Goldenhill & Sandyford. For example, I'm aware of recent problems in Ridge Road and incidents at Goldenhill Golf Course.
As in other parts of the city, people are very concerned at the state of the local economy and the lack of jobs and opportunities. When I worked at Kidsgrove Job Centre the number of 18-24 year olds I saw who had never worked deeply worried me. Our young people deserve better than this.
What issues would you tackle first?
Anti-social behaviour is a major concern to local people and I would prioritise action to tackle this. In terms of other issues, during the campaign I've been asking local people to tell me what matters to them most and I will be taking up the issues and problems they have identified.
Without very much budget how will you implement your ideas?
I would not try to impose my ideas on the local community, but would try to work with them to develop their own ideas for the area.
How would you generate income for the local area?
By trying to think outside the box, and by working with local communities to access funding which may not be directly available to the council (eg. lottery funding and other grants).
What are your thoughts on Anti Social Behaviour?
I would support a hard line approach. Evidence shows that if a community is seen to tolerate anti-social behavior eg. alcohol misuse it creates an environment for more serious criminal behaviour to take hold. Problems need to be nipped in the bud before they can become worse.
Will you be working full time or part time as a ward councillor?
To provide a good service to the people of Goldenhill & Sandyford and be able to attend daytime meetings I would work no more than part-time.
Questions by Jon Morgan, Bankeyfields
Who should be running of the council the Council Officers or the Councilors.
Councillors are responsible for determining policy and making decisions, officers must then implement them. There must be greater transparency in this process in order that where things go wrong those responsible can be held to account.
How do you envisage keeping local facilities such as Tunstall Pool Open.
I have very fond memories of Tunstall Pool having learned to swim there during the 1970s (I think I passed my length certificate in 1977!). I would support any feasible proposals to retain the pool, which may be through a trust or other not for profit organisation taking on the running of the pool who may then be able to access external sources of funding.
How would you deal with Anti-Social Behavior.
Please see my answer to Jon Morgan above.
How are the council / you going to get Business to move to the area.
To get more well paid jobs in North Staffordshire we first have to improve the skills base of the local workforce to make the area more attractive to employers. Any strategy to do this must be Stoke-on-Trent/North Staffordshire wide. If we don't do this we will be left with retail/warehouse jobs paying little over national minimum wage. It was very disappointing that the Con-Dem Government refused to designate an Enterprise Zone for Stoke-on-Trent.
How will you get money spent in our area in preference to other areas.
I don't see this as a case of getting money spent in our area in preference to others, but rather a case of resources being allocated on the basis of fairness and need. I would much prefer to see councillors working together to maximise the funding and resources coming in to Stoke-on-Trent than squabbling amongst themselves over what size slice each area gets of an already small cake.
Questions by Richard Hawthorn, Bankeyfields
Will you fight the officers of the council and return the power back to its rightful place (in the hands of the councillor)?
Yes. Only councillors have a democratic mandate to make decisions which affect the people of Stoke-on-Trent.
Will you take steps to have the 106 money (with acrued interest) returned to its rightfull owners. The area that it was designated for?
Section 106 monies should be spent in the area they were intended for. With regard to Bankeyfields, I don't know the full history of how the current position was arrived at but will make achieving a resolution a priority if I'm elected.
Who will be your priority your party, your voters, or the council?
As a councillor for Goldenhill & Sandyford my priority would be the people who elected me. If they are unhappy with me at the end of the four year term they can vote to remove me from office.
Will you serve the voters irrespective of political beliefs?
Yes, all councillors are required to do this regardless of whether someone has voted for them or not.
Questions by Terry Cope, Tunstall, Greenfields
What past experience do you have that makes you think you are prepared for the responsibly of being a Councillor?
I have a broad life experience which has included periods working in the private, voluntary and public sectors. I understand the structures of local government and have experience of representing people through casework and problem solving.
What are your major strengths?
My life experience.
What are your major weaknesses?
What is more important, to fix a street light or to install a park bench, and why?
A street light because of safety aspects.
What experience do you have in securing funding?
In a previous job I contributed to writing successful funding bids to organisations such as the Big Lottery Fund, Single Regeneration Budgets (SRB) and Give it Sum.
What are your thoughts on keeping a weekly/bi weekly blog on MyTunstall if elected of
If elected I will be writing a weekly blog and am exploring the best way of doing do.
work you are carrying out?
ongoing ward budget?
key local news?
What green initiatives do you think can benefit all in the ward?
Improved/increased recycling, and by reducing the number of car journeys eg. by developing safer routes to school which would see a reduction in the morning/afternoon school run by more children walking and cycling to school as we did during the 1970s and 1980s.
Which members of the community are your priority?
All members of the community, but particularly the most vulnerable who are often unable to make their voice heard.
Questions by Matt Burke, Bankeyfields
What power have you got ?
At present, as a candidate rather than a sitting councillor I have no more power than any other member of the public.
Where did it come from ?
Any power would come from the people who would have elected me as their councillor.
In whose interest do you use it ?
Specifically for the benefit of the people of Goldenhill & Sandyford, and more generally for the benefit of all the people of Stoke-on-Trent.
To whom are you accountable ?
I would be accountable to the people who elected me.
How do we get rid of you ?
At the end of a four year term if you don't feel that I've done a good job for the area then you can vote to remove me from office.
Questions by Mick Williams, The Internet
How will you communicate what you plan to do / have done with us?
Through a weekly blog, through attending residents' association and other local meetings and through holding a regular advice surgery.
How will you engage the electorate?
As above, by inviting them to let me know their views through a weekly blog I will be writing, by me attending attending residents' association and other local meetings and through holding a regular advice surgery.
Where do you see the line being drawn between the community solving their problems and the local government doing it?
I believe that in an ideal world communities would have the capacity to take responsibility for their area in the form of ensuring that their voice is heard and identifying solutions themselves to the problems which affect the area where they live. The community and the council would them be able to work together to try to resolve the problem. In turn, the council must learn to trust local communities and listen to what they say.
What are your views on a Big Society?
Empowering local people to become involved in the area where they live and other voluntary activity can only be positive. However, I believe that the true agenda of the Con-Dem Government is to attempt to provide cover for the spending cuts being made and as such the 'Big Society' is a gimmick.
Questions by Lawrence, Bankeyfields
In your view, what are the major challenges facing this ward and what do you think a councillor's role is to address them?
Local people themselves should be the ones who determine what would most improve their quality of life. I believe the role of a councillor is to provide leadership to achieve a positive outcome for the area and deliver the improvements needed.
General question that would probe local knowledge and their interpretation of what they can do/achieve
Questions by Clare White, Burslem
What are your connection to this ward, why have you chosen to represent this ward?
I'm a local man and was born, grew up and have lived in the Tunstall area all my life. I have strong family links to Goldenhill and spent the school holidays when I was young with my uncle and aunt who lived in Brakespeare Street and have many good memories. Until recently I worked in Kidsgrove so I've been out in the area every day of the week.
Question by Ian Norris, Tunstall
Can you explain -in detail- your strategy to bring big business into the area, particularly in sectors such as finance which is a well paid sector and is entirely under represented in Stoke on Trent? (Remember the business rates on office premises is much lower here than in other areas.)
Before we can even consider this a great deal of work is needed to improve the skills base of the local workforce. Only then will we be in a position to attract employers to Stoke-on-Trent. Whilst I worked at JobCentre Plus the number of people I saw with basic literacy/numeracy problems deeply worried me. The Con-Dem Government has not helped this situation by scrapping Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) making it more difficult for young people from less well off backgrounds to stay on at school after 16, and by refusing to designate an Enterprise Zone for Stoke-on-Trent.
If you do manage to attract businesses into the area, what will you do to ensure that a high proportion of managerial and supervisory jobs go to local people rather than allowing companies to import their top paid employees from outside the area? (As is the case now)
I'm very sympathetic to this idea, but think it would be very difficult to achieve not least due to employment law. However, I believe that the council could set a positive example by encouraging more senior officers to live in Stoke-on-Trent and contribute to the economy of the city by spending their salaries locally.
What will you do to bring local salary levels up to the National average, or at least the average in the West Midlands?
The only way we can do this is to get more well paid highly skilled jobs in North Staffordshire by improving the skills base of the local workforce to make the area more attractive to employers. If we don't we will be left with retail/warehouse jobs paying little over national minimum wage.
Questions by Andy, Bankeyfields