I emailed you on 17 January 2013, detailing my extreme dismay about the outrageous and reckless borrowing undertaken by the Labour-controlled council. I finished with two questions for you:
1) Do you agree with Stoke-on-Trent Council borrowing millions and millions of pounds to fund a building to re-house staff that already occupy another purpose-built building?
2) If you do agree, will you give me your reasons please?
Simple enough questions, but you said the ‘The rationale underpinning the relocation to Hanley is complex so I will ask the relevant cabinet holder to provide a comprehensive response to your question’
That cabinet member was Mark Meredith and his response was the usual corporate flannel. In light of his recent scandal-related resignation, do you now feel able to answer my questions personally or will you again feel obliged to refer them on? You are my local councillor and so I direct my questions to you and would appreciate an honest response.
Dear Ann Farrington, I do support the development of the Central Business District of which the relocation of services to Hanley is an integral part. The decline of traditional industries means that for many years our city has been on a downward economic spiral. As a consequence, indices of deprivation within Stoke-on-Trent make grim reading. Educational attainment, income levels, mortality rates and house prices are all well below the national average. Central government has imposed year on year cuts of 7% on the Local Authority (compared to much less severe cuts for Tory led councils) making it increasingly difficult for them to provide services within the city. Further, economic stagnation within the city means that the Local Authority has an ever decreasing revenue stream as business rates are not being generated. Similarly, high levels of unemployment takes people below the council tax threshold. This direction of travel is not an option and can only be arrested through the creation of real employment opportunities for the residents of the city. To create these much needed jobs requires a bold forward thinking strategy and above all targeted capital investment. By developing the CBD and other associated projects, the council will help to create a vibrant, modern centre which is a prerequisite for any city that is serious about regenerating. The relocation to Hanley will encourage businesses from the financial sector to occupy the new office developments which will give the local economy the much needed impetus that it needs to grow. The cost to the council of moving to the CBD will be offset by the sale of its existing assets, and the considerable long term savings which will be made through reduced maintenance and energy costs. The development of Stoke town centre is also part of the overall strategy for growth. I believe that there has been significant interest from investors in both the civic and former Spode sites with the real possibility of new employment opportunities for our local residents. Incidentally, I passed your first email on to the cabinet member because I genuinely thought that he would better placed to provide you with an authoritative explanation of the rationale behind the move to Hanley. This is common practice within the council and with me not hearing anything to the contrary I naturally assumed that you were satisfied with the way that I handled your question. In your email you say that you would "appreciate an honest response" to your question. And as an elected member this is something that I endeavour to do at all times. Yours sincerely Shaun Pender