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THE SENTINEL Wednesday August 3, 2011

Council relocation perk costs £115,000 for 15 officers GETTING INVOLVED: Chairman Barrie Harrington.

Have your say on improving neighbourhood

Senior staff helped to live outside city BY ALEX CAMPBELL

POLICE will be in attendance at the next meeting of a community group. Normacot Residents’ Association will meet on Tuesday at the Queensbury Centre, in Normacot, from 6.30pm. Residents are urged to attend to raise any issues they have, or ideas about improving the area. They will also have the opportunity to put forward concerns about crime in the area. Earlier this year, the association unveiled its own Centenary Garden created on derelict land between Ludwall Road and Upper Belgrave Road. One of the items that will be discussed is the upkeep of the garden. Chairman Barrie Harrington said: “We are doing a rolling programme of planting and we are again looking at getting the schools involved. That will be discussed at the meeting. “Other than that, the police are very good in supporting us by attending the meetings and they will be there. “We are looking for a new project to support this year even though we have lost our city council funding. “We used to get £100, but that’s now gone.” Councillors for the area have also been invited to attend the meeting.

alex.campbell@thesentinel.co.uk

Bikers raise £2k for charity MOTORBIKE enthusiasts have raised £2,000 to support an air ambulance. Members of the Stoke-onTrent-based Staffordshire Goldwings, a club for fans of the iconic Honda motorcycle, collected the cash at a series of events on behalf of West Midlands Air Ambulance. The club has raised £5,000 for the charity in recent years. Club representative Michael Rushton, aged 59, from Biddulph, said: “Because of the style of the bikes we do attract attention at our static displays and that’s when we are able to raise money. “We feel they are a really good cause to raise cash for.” Air ambulance spokesman Katie Rose said: “Over 50 per cent of our calls are to road traffic collisions and a lot of those do involve the motorbike community so they appreciate our work.”

ADJOURNED: Croatian national Tomislav Maratovic, above, has appeared at North Staffordshire Magistrates Court charged with an offence before Stoke City’s Europa League game against Hajduk Split at the Britannia Stadium last week. Maratovic, aged 33, of Antuna Barca, Riyeka, a welder who has worked for an American company in Iraq, has pleaded not guilty to violent disorder by using or threatening unlawful violence on July 28 this year. Prosecutor Clair Moss submitted

that the case was not suitable for a summary trial in the magistrates court and jurisdiction was declined in the matter. The case has now been adjourned for six weeks so that committal papers can be prepared. Maratovic will appear before the court again on September 13 and until then he was given unconditional bail to return home. Stoke beat the Croatian side 1-0 and the return game is tomorrow.

Shopping mall allowed more retail space MORE retail space is to be created at an out-of-town shopping centre. Freeport Talke has been restricted to only having restaurant and creche facilities on its top floor since plans for the development were passed in 1997. The owners applied to New-

castle Borough Council to change the use of part of the top floor to retail after receiving interest from a firm. Members of the planning committee gave the go-ahead during a meeting last night. Councillors passed the plans without discussion, but reports produced ahead of the

meeting state most of the first floor has been unoccupied since 2008. The area affected by the change is 283.35 square metres of the 12,182 square metre first floor. It means the shopping centre is still within the net retail space limit of 16,212 square metres previously set.

FIFTEEN top officers at Stokeon-Trent City Council claimed a share of £115,000 in expenses for moving house to take up their jobs, but none of them actually moved to the city. Chief Executive John van de Laarschot was among the staff to pocket relocation expenses, topping up his £191,000 income with an allowance of several thousand pounds after switching from Devon’s Torridge District Council in 2009. The officers, all understood to be working in senior roles with high pay grades, have been paid allowances ranging from £194 to the maximum £12,000 over four years. Relocation expenses are intended to help new recruits from outside the city cover the cost of moving into their new homes. Speaking to The Sentinel in 2009, shortly before he took up his post, the chief executive’s wife Tracey van de Laarschot said: “We definitely want to live in the area John covers, that is the least he can do. “If he lives there, he can understand the issues there.” But it has now emerged that none of the officers, including Mr van de Laarschot, have actually moved to properties inside the city boundaries. Critics say the officers’ considerable salaries should be used to cover the cost of moving house. Jim Gibson, chairman of Chell Heath residents’ association, said: “It beggars belief. It is ridiculous that they can make rules for the city but won’t live here; are we not good enough? “Moving into the city should be a part of their contracts. The expenses should be paid back or given to charity. “Given the way they are cutting back it is just another kick in the teeth.” It comes after Stoke-on-Trent City Council revealed plans to bring more “executive housing” to the city to make it more attractive to business leaders. Annual accounts show Mr van de Laarschot took home

CASHING IN: Chief Executive John van de Laarschot. £191,032 in salary and allowances, as well as £6,903 in expenses and benefits in kind last year. Contributions to his pension pot totalled £28,640, bringing his total income for 2010/11 to £226,575. John Davis, chairman of the North Staffordshire Pensioners’ Convention, was among the campaigners fighting to protect the Willfield Fitness Centre from closure in the first wave of council cuts. He said: “If they are prepared to take their big salaries out of the city and make decisions about the city they should be expected to live here.” The relocation expenses cover costs such as removal vans, estate agent bills and solicitors’ fees. Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it also offers a commuter allowance to anyone who lives a “reasonable distance”, 25 miles or more, from the city. The maximum amount for workers choosing to commute is £5,000. If workers choose to move house they have to do so by the end of the subsequent financial year and move within 15 miles of their new place of work. Payments over £8,000 are taxable and must be approved by the council’s head of human resources. But workers only have to pay the money back if they leave within two years or fail to comply with the terms. Councillor Paul Shotton, cabinet member for transformation and resources, said: “The scheme is used to attract the best possible new staff to come and work in the city, and can only be approved by a director and the assistant director of human resources and transfor mation. “If purchasing a house, they also need to move by the end of the following tax year to within 15 miles of the place of work.”

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In brief STAFFORD: A 24-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery after a man was stabbed to death in a botched raid. The arrest took place on the Highfields estate, in Stafford, yesterday after an incident in Greater Manchester on July 26. Officers were called to a florist shop in Old Trafford around 9.40pm that day following reports a man had been injured. They discovered a number of men had tried to rob the shop. Gary Mullings, aged 30, from New Moston, Manchester, was taken to hospital but died a short time later. A post mortem revealed he died from stab wounds. The 24-year-old man arrested was taken to police custody in Greater Manchester, where he was due to be interviewed by detectives last night. Shop owner Cecil Coley, aged 72, was arrested on suspicion of murder and has been bailed until September 9, pending further inquiries. STAFFORD: Families are invited to join an evening walk at a popular tourist attraction to raise money for charity. The sponsored 10k walk is taking place at Shugborough Hall and Estate on Saturday, September 3, to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice. There will also be live entertainment and a firework display. Registration is £10 and free for under 16s which includes a free T-shirt. For details, call 08700 340 040 or visit www.mariecurie.org.uk. GOLDENHILL: Sandyford and Goldenhill Residents’ Association will hold Goldenhill Community Fun Day at Goldenhill Community Centre on Saturday from noon. The event will include morris dancing, a magic show and fairground rides. For more details, email craig.simpson@nulc.ac.uk or call 01782 811291. LONGTON: Visitors to Gladstone Pottery Museum will be able to take a free donkey ride around the cobbled yard on Tuesday from 11am to 4pm. The rides form part of the Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside show which celebrates the British seaside holiday. Children will able to watch a Punch and Judy show, decorate pottery and make finger puppets. UTTOXETER: Story telling sessions will be held at Uttoxeter Library, in High Street, every Tuesday during this month between 9.30am and 10am.

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