Author Archives: NSTV News Team

£5.5m funding proposals for ‘investment in children’

A public consultation has been launched today (Monday) on proposals to fund a £5.5m redirection of cash to children’s services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

If approved, the proposals will allow the city council to prioritise significant ‘investment in children’ in the city now and in future years, following an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted earlier this year.

The council’s cabinet is making the proposals after seeing unprecedented demand for children’s social care services, with the number of children in care increasing to 890 in recent months at the same time as national funding has continued to fall and costs have continued to rise. This is the equivalent of 200 more children in care than similar-sized councils with the same social and economic profile.*

The consultation, which is underway until 25 September, proposes a range of measures to allow the funding to be re-directed. They include:

  • A review of council staffing including all back office support functions. This would see a net reduction of 248 jobs overall including 86 vacant posts. It is anticipated that most, if not all, posts would be through voluntary redundancy.
  • Transformation of services with a view to delivering even more effectively and efficiently.
  • Controls on all non-essential spending on areas such as recruitment and travel.
  • Reviewing contracts and continuing to identify alternative funding sources and additional income.
  • Review of landscaping maintenance.

The proposals build on a budget which already sees £17m in savings being made in 2019/20 and £194m of savings made across the city council in the last eight years.

The authority is also facing rising demand in support for services for older people with the number of residents aged over 70 due to grow by 43 per cent in the next 20 years and numbers increasing by eight per cent in the last three years. In addition, Stoke-on-Trent has the highest rate of 18 to 64 year olds with learning disabilities in residential or nursing care across the West Midlands, at 132 per 100,000 compared to 78 regionally and 73 nationally. As with older adults, adults with learning disabilities are living longer and needs are becoming more complex.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “The recent Ofsted inspection highlighted the urgent need to make children’s services and protecting our vulnerable young people our number one priority. From day one of our administration, we have been clear that this will be our main focus. As a cabinet, we are committed to ensuring that improvement and investment in children’s services go hand in hand, and these mid-year proposals will allow us to re-direct necessary funding so that we can make this happen.

“The funding issues facing all councils are well known, and Stoke-on-Trent City Council is not alone in this challenge of ensuring that we can effectively support the most vulnerable within our communities against a backdrop of increasing demand and tightening funding. Providing just one day’s worth of social care for children, adults with learning disabilities and older people costs £400,000.

“As a council with good financial management at its centre, we have to understand and adapt to emerging risks and demands no matter how challenging. We are a well-managed council delivering a strong economy, bringing quality jobs and businesses to the city, new and affordable housing and improving schools, but we have to prioritise and accelerate investment in children in the city. These are tough decisions to make but we have to press ahead with these proposals so that we can meet the real and significant demands on our services now. This investment in children is absolutely the right thing to do. This is about taking responsible and immediate action to meet our legal duty to deliver a balanced budget.”

Between 2017 and 2018 in Stoke-on-Trent, there was a 12 per cent increase in children in care compared to a three per cent increase nationally, a four per cent increase regionally and an eight per cent increase for authorities statistically similar to Stoke-on-Trent. The cost of a child in care can be up to £10,000 a week.

The Ofsted judgement on children’s services came in March, after the authority had met its statutory duty to set a budget for the current financial year in February. Since receiving the judgement, the council has worked at pace to make the changes needed to improve services, including developing a robust improvement plan, appointing a new management team and changing team structures as well as improving the arrangements for people making contact with children’s services. A considerable amount of work has taken place to support foster carers and encourage new families to become foster carers. Since March, a series of monthly open days across the city and wider promotion of the service has seen 124 enquiries from people interested in fostering which is already leading to support for 16 new foster carer families, compared to 11 new foster carers appointed during the whole of the last financial year.

Consultation on the proposals will continue until 25 September. People are encouraged to have their say on the proposed changes.

The city council is working with staff, unions and partners as the consultation progresses. The proposals will be discussed at cabinet on 20 August 2019, with consultation responses considered by cabinet on 8 October 2019 and at a meeting of the full city council on 17 October 2019.

Click here to have your say !

Catering company signs up to be part of Hanley park’s restoration

Visitors to a historic park in Stoke-on-Trent will soon be able to enjoy freshly prepared food, quality hot drinks and afternoon tea when a stylish new café venue opens inside a renovated pavilion.

The refurbishment and restoration of the disused main pavilion building at Hanley Park has been one of the main elements of the park’s multi-million pound refurbishment, after Stoke-on-Trent City Council was successful with a bid to the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Fund.

The work has seen a complete restoration to the interior and exterior of the 123-year-old pavilion including repair work to the roof, windows, brickwork and clock tower, installing new toilets and and improving access to the building. Elsewhere in the park, the boat house on the main lake has been restored to house a café and a function space on the upper floor. And the former Northern Bowls Pavilion, near to the popular children’s play area, has been refurbished to sell ice creams and snacks to visitors. 

Now the city council, which is responsible for delivering the restoration project, can reveal it has signed a contract with Caterleisure Group to provide catering at all three venues. The company, which was established in 1976 and employs more than 370 people across 55 ventures, will shortly begin work to fit out the buildings before opening them to the public.

The pavilion will be open all year round as a café and function venue and will have room for 80 diners inside and space for a further 50 in an outdoor seating area. It is hoped the venue will open to the public in October.  The boathouse will be available for hire from the autumn for meetings and events, and open to the general public on a seasonal basis. The play area kiosk is scheduled to open in April 2020. In total, around 20 jobs are expected to be created.

Councillor Carl Edwards, cabinet member for environment, said: “Having the pavilion, boathouse and children’s play area kiosk open again and giving visitors somewhere to eat, meet and enjoy themselves will take the park up another level. This will make the park a top free-to-enter leisure destination not just in Stoke-on-Trent but in Staffordshire, which has something for everyone. The restoration of these buildings has been one of the headlines of the entire restoration project that captured people’s imaginations and memories and it’s fantastic to now be at this stage. We’re really pleased to have Caterleisure Group on board and are excited with their plans for catering in the park.

“We’re nearing the end of the restoration project now and the park is going to look fantastic when everything is finished. It’s been a long project but it’s a big site to cover, and historic buildings such as the main pavilion have been painstakingly restored to their former glory. We recently unveiled the restored bandstand, which looks absolutely stunning, and the response from the public to that has been incredibly positive. Having high quality green space and leisure facilities is vitally important to supporting the health and wellbeing of our residents and that theme has been at the centre of all the work that has taken place. Hanley Park is one of the city’s oldest and most historic parks, and this is another example of how we are working hard to protect and appreciate our heritage. I’d like to personally thank everyone who has been involved in the project for the fantastic work they have done.”

The park, which spans across 60 acres, is one of the UK’s largest Victorian public parks. It was the first public park commission of the well-known landscape designer Thomas Mawson, and opened in 1897 as a much-needed antidote to the poor working conditions of the potters and miners in the district.

Further improvements carried out in the Grade II*-listed park as part of the restoration project have included restoring the terracotta Hammersley Fountain, repairing canal bridges, fences, gating and footpaths, and restoring the bandstand, which is now hosting a series of summer music performances. Two lodges at each park entrance have also been restored and will be commercially let out by the council. The park restoration is expected to be fully finished by the end of this year.

Louise Hodgson, development director at Caterleisure Group, said: “The pavilion will cater for all park visitors and we hope it will become a destination café, somewhere for the local community to meet and enjoy time with friends and family. The menu will feature local produce and traditional classics, grab-and-go snacks, freshly prepared meals, ice cream and quality hot and cold beverages throughout the day. The building has two areas that are ideal for private hire and functions.

“The boathouse is in a stunning location overlooking the lake, and we feel it will be perfect for any celebration. It will be available for hire throughout the year and will be a place where people can enjoy traditional afternoon tea with family and friends. And the kiosk next to the children’s play area will sell a range of classic ice cream flavours, as well as confectionery and hot and cold snacks.

“We’re delighted to be coming to Hanley Park, which is a fantastic venue with enormous potential. It is great to see all the refurbishment work that has been taking place getting close to completion and we can’t wait to get started now.”

Anyone interested in job opportunities in the park with Caterleisure Group can complete an online application form at

Plastic bag sales down 90% since introduction of 5p charge

Not a local story, but this press release came out and we thought we would share it with you as it makes interesting reading, I think we have all cut back on bags since the charge came in to force.

New figures show sales of single-use bags by England’s seven biggest retailers continued to fall in 2018/19.

Sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, new figures out today [31 July] have shown.

Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 (549 million) – a drop of almost half on the previous year.

The average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.

Welcoming today’s figures, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said:

Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results, with our 5p charge reducing plastic bag sales by 90% in the big supermarkets.

No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.

The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers in 2018/2019 fell 37% to 1.11 billion compared with the previous year.

Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decadeunless marine litter is tackled. One million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Today’s figures reveal 5p plastic bag sales have also contributed around £169 million toward charities and other good causes since the charge was introduced on 5 October 2015, with more than £22 million raised in 2018/19 alone.

Wider government action to tackle plastic waste:

The UK continues to be a global leader in cracking down on plastic waste to protect seas, oceans and marine life. We have recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, underpinned by our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy.

Key government actions include our world-leading ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of drinks bottles and cans, and recently confirming a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in April 2020.

We will also introduce a new world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment.