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THE SENTINEL Thursday January 5, 2012


UNCOVERED: A Minton tiled floor at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall has been cleaned and prepared for the public to view. The rarely seen handcrafted mosaic of more than 30,000 Minton tiles was laid in 1852, but covered by a wooden floor in the 1860s to allow for dancing and events. St George’s Hall was constructed between 1841 and 1854 to house Liverpool’s law courts and concert rooms and is a Grade I-listed building. The building was restored in 2007 with a grant from the Civic Trust and then reopened by Prince Charles. The floor will be open to visitors, for a £1 admission fee, from Saturday to January 22. The tiles were handmade at Minton Hollins factory in Stoke, the same firm that also tiled the floor of the US Capitol Building in Washington.

Driver handed Top-tier shake-up planned at cash-strapped authority £50 bill for 12-month ban dropping fag

A FATHER-OF-THREE has been fined £30 after he assaulted a family friend. David Grajnert, aged 39, of Uttoxeter Road, Longton, injured Benjamin Drake at his partner’s Dresden home on December 13, North Staffordshire magistrates heard yesterday. Prosecutor Steve Knowles said Grajnert lost his temper after Mr Drake said things about his children which he was not happy with. The defendant grabbed Mr Drake who banged his face as they fell. Grajnert pleaded guilty to assault, but denied any punch. Representing himself, Grajnert reiterated that he did not strike Mr Drake but added he regrets the incident. He was also ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

“That money could be spent on protecting the children’s 2-FOR-1 PANTO TICKETS centre staff.” 350 MORE The council’s budget cuts of JOBS TO GO FLASHBACK: £24 million will also see four AT COUNCIL Our story director roles made redundant on council to save £424,000. jobs cuts in One of the doomed posts, October. within business services, is already vacant. But the savings will be offset Under its budget plans, the council is proposing to save by the appointment of an £130,000-per-year by cutting the assistant to Mr van de LaarsLord Mayor’s ceremonial role chot and the arrival of a as well as the car, chauffeur “green” chief. Councillor Paul Shotton, and allowances. Former councillor Kieran cabinet member for resources, Clarke, who is among those said: “As part of our corporate the proposed campaigning to protect the restructure, mayoral position, said: “I think if the public had to choose between one or the other they would pick the Lord Mayor. “The council is talking about trying to attract new businesses to the city. But would you want to invest in a city that can’t afford its Lord Mayor? “It also raises the question of why they’re bringing in more posts when they’re trying to simplify the management structure.” Children’s centre cuts campaigner Claire Lawrence, a mother-of-six, of Meir, criticised plans for the appointment. She said: “It is absolutely disgraceful to be taking money away from children’s services and spending this much on giving somebody a job. “I would rather the money was spent on a service that helps prevent children from going into care. “If they have done without an assistant for two years, why do they need one now? Sponsors of Miss Staffordshire Miss England 2011

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A COUNCIL which has made more than 750 workers redundant in 18 months is to hire an assistant chief executive on a salary of up to £132,000. Stoke-on-Trent City Council chief John van de Laarschot, who was paid £198,000 in salary, benefits and allowances in 2010/11, wants to bring in a second-in-command after two years in the job. The plans are set to be discussed in a behind-closeddoors meeting next week and the council’s HR committee will review any internal applications. There is currently no such post at the city council. The authority said it is reducing the number of top officers as part of budget cuts and the new role will incorporate the work of several senior staff. But it is also considering plans to hire another assistant director to oversee “green” projects at a cost of £106,000. It comes as the authority considers savings of £24 million in 2012/13, which will see another 358 staff posts cut, a council tax rise of 3.5 per cent, and care and youth facilities closed or privatised. The last person to hold the position of assistant chief executive was Chris Harman, who was briefly promoted to interim chief executive but left in October 2009 with a £65,000 payoff after Mr van de Laarschot, pictured right, was handed the top job. Mr Harman was paid £131,000 per annum and the new assistant will receive between £120,000 and £132,000.

Staff cut to help balance the budget

Two-year tax freeze pledge

A TORY-RUN council last night revealed it is freezing council tax rates for two years. Staffordshire County Council is believed to be the first in the country to confirm it will not increase tax bills next year. And it has also committed to freezing council tax in 2013/14, regardless of Government incentives. The announcement follows Chancellor George Osborne’s confirmation of an £805 million national cash pot to ensure councils freeze bills for another year. Mohammed Pervez, the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council has said: “Whilst no decision has been made we will consider the Gover nment’s offer very carefully.” Cheshire East Council has not decided on tax for next year.


AT LEAST 350 more job cuts are being planned at Stoke-on-Trent City Council as the authority battles to save up to a further £25 million. Consultation with unions and employees is expected to start next month over the next wave of civic centre redundancies. The Sentinel understands council chief executive John van de Laarschot has informed some staff that between 350 and 500 more jobs will be shed in the latest cost-cutting measures. About 800 staff have already lost their jobs in 2011/12 as the council tried to save almost £36 million over a 12-month period. Those losses sparked redundancy payouts of more than £11 million. A council insider told The Sentinel: “The chief executive has been holding meetings with staff to talk about the situation. “He told them 500 more jobs could go.” The exact amount the authority will have to cut from the budget in 2012/13 will not be confirmed until the Government

finalises its financial settlement. But finance chiefs are already predicting a £4.5 million overspend in 2011/12, because of a failure to implement all of the cuts and below-expected income. Latest figures show 1,080 workers have left the council since April 2009; 833 through voluntary redundancy, 213 through compulsory redundancy and 34 through early retirement. Most of the redundancies came in adult and neighbourhood, and children and young people’s service departments, leaving 5,433 full and parttime employees at the end of June. Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, said he has been contacted by two members of staff who have been informed of the possible 500 redundancies. He added: “The council is down to its bare knuckles already. “The work is still going to be there even if the jobs are not. “My worry is that absenteeism through stress will increase because our officers are going to

be under a huge amount of pressure. “Every year there seems to be another re-organisation. “It wouldn’t be so bad if there were jobs out there, but there is nothing.” Council officials today confirmed consultation would be held with unions and staff. Mr van de Laarschot said: “To achieve the level of savings which need to be made by the city council in the next financial year we potentially either need to make changes to our services or reduce our salary budget. “It's early days for our ideas, and it is all subject to consultation with unions and employees.” Council leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said: “We have started the process of identifying savings for next year. “Once again, we are faced with very difficult decisions. “No final decisions have been made but it is fair to say that job cuts are likely.” Trade union Unison was unavailable for comment.

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More parking spaces in town A FORMER supermarket car park is to be re-opened in time for the Christmas shopping season to help ease the pressure on parking spaces in Newcastle town centre. But only the surface level car park at the former Sainsbury’s site, off the A34, will be used for the new payand-display facilities. The neighbouring multi-storey car park will remain off limits to motorists due to safety issues. The surface car park is expected to re-open in early November. See Letters: Pages 8&9


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Dad assaulted family friend

Council chief wants £132,000 assistant SEN-eO1-S2

TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Alicia Walton has been banned from driving for 12 months after crashing her car when over the drink drive limit. North Staffordshire magistrates yesterday heard the care worker’s Fiat Punto collided with a wall in High Street, Goldenhill, at 2.10am on December 7. Walton gave a reading of 58 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, while the legal limit is 35mgs. The defendant, of Keele Road, Keele, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol. Robin Lichfield, mitigating, said a car cut in front of Walton and she braked heavily, lost control and hit a wall. Her car was a write-off. Magistrates fined Walton £150 and ordered her to pay £85 costs and a £15 surcharge. Her ban will be reduced to nine months if she completes the drink drivers’ course.

assistant chief executive post will replace that of the current vacant director of business services post, with no increase in salary. “The role will incorporate more services that had previously been under the director of business services’ post, as well as some from assistant director posts that are proposed to be deleted. “The new post will give us greater capacity amongst the senior management staff with no increase in cost.”

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SMOKER William Moffit has been given a conditional discharge for six months after he admitted dropping a cigarette in Hanley. Trevor Vernon, prosecuting for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, yesterday told North Staffordshire magistrates a council environmental crime officer saw Moffit drop a rollup next to the Salvation Army shop in Stafford Street on June 8 last year. “He made no effort to pick it up and was followed in the shop,” said Mr Vernon. Moffit was given an £80 fixed penalty notice, but told the officer he was on the dole and asked if he could pay in instalments. But he was told the penalty, which is reduced to £50 if paid in seven days, had to be paid in full. Moffit, of Warrington Road, Hanley, pleaded guilty to throwing down a cigarette. Representing himself, Moffit said: “It was just a oneoff. I dropped it on the floor.” Moffit will pay £50 costs.