Friday, 19 February 2016

Greens join the race to be Staffordshire's next Police Commissioner.

The Green Party in Staffordshire has selected prominent countryside campaigner Paul Woodhead as their candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner.

He will join Labour candidate George Adamson and incumbent Matthew Ellis on the ballot paper for the election set to take place in May.

In a press statement released on Wednesday Mr Woodhead said: “Green policy has a distinctive and unique message focused on addressing the causes of crime rather than coping with the symptoms and our policy area on restorative justice was established many years ahead of its time. We have a consistent message built upon social and environmental justice which will deliver real positive impact for our communities”

He added that he was” extremely proud and humbled to be selected to be able to offer the people of Staffordshire the opportunity to vote for a Green PCC.”

He has been a major force in the party's campaign against plans by Staffordshire County Council to sell off green spaces in the county, he has also been prominent in campaigns against austerity, the privatisation of public services and fracking.

In the press statement launching his campaign Paul Woodhead said:“We do not accept the premise of austerity. Cuts have consequences with Staffordshire having one of the lowest proportion of Police Officers,” adding that “We believe the Fire Service should remain independent of PCC interference whilst building upon a collaborative approach to better working.”

The Green Party does not he said “support the establishment of Police and Crime Commissioners, however he believes it to be “imperative that residents have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who wants to ensure democratic accountability of the police is returned to the community.”

The nomination process for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections requires candidates to put up a £5000 deposit, this usually paid by for by what Mr Woodhead describes ad 'vested interests', his own campaign will be paid for through crowd funding.

Concluding his statement to the press Paul Woodhead said:“ with the election system allowing for a preference vote for the PCC you can vote for your preferred Green voice ahead of your least worst choice of other party and hopefully this will give confidence to residents that they can indeed delivery the result they want at the ballot box”

Paul Woodhead has agreed to join fellow candidates Matthew Ellis and George Adamson in a debate to be staged at the Medical Institute in Hartshill on Monday 25th April.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Local camera club exhibition shows focus on images that rival the professionals.

This pleasing exhibition belongs to the so small you could miss it category. Not due to the quality of the content, but thanks to it having been poorly sited just inside the entrance of Hanley Central Library.

It is though more than worth the awkwardness involved in squeezing around to see them to appreciate photographs that compare favourably to the work of professional shutter-bugs.

On display is work by members of Willfield Camera Club, a local group based that describes itself as a 'friendly club' with members of all ages and abilities.

To the current exhibition Kari Limond contributes an accomplished picture of a sunset over Westport Lake, equally atmospheric is Shawn Balleau's black and white shot of Perch Beach lighthouse, capturing as it does the loneliness of the setting and the starkness of the landscape.

Chris Hulme's aerial photographs contribute a dash of action, the best if these being 'Typhoon Pulling G's' and Tony Finney's 'The Tool-shed' brings a touch of social realism.

If asked to pick a favourite, not an easy request given the high quality of the contributions, I would have to plump for the bunnies in suits of Richard Amor Allan's 'Alice in Wonderland.' This seems to capture perfectly a surreal humour of which Lewis Carroll would surely have approved.

The pictures contained in this exhibition and more information about Willfield Camera Club can be found at

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Rise in homelessness shows the cruelty at the heart of the austerity agenda.

A shelter built to house bicycles in the centre of Hanley has been taken over by a group of homeless men who have erected tents inside the structure.

The Old Hall Street 'Cycle Hub' was opened in 2015 as part of a plan to boost cycling in the city and cost £40,000.

There are no immediate plans to evict the men and a council spokesman told the Sentinel, 'there is a lot of professional support out there for people who are homeless or facing homelessness,' he went on to urge anyone in such a situation to come forward and ask for support.

This includes the newly council's newly opened 18 bed Macari Centre, at which homeless people can get a warm meal, a change of clothes and a bed for the night.

Also speaking to the Sentinel Danny Flynn, chief executive of North Staffordshire YMCA, said that 'for around twenty years we were starting to make inroads into the problem (of homelessness), but over the last five years things have got worse all over the country, mainly as the outcome of government cuts.'

He added that the YMCA currently had 38 people on its waiting list,some of whom would be sleeping rough, and said that what was needed to address the problem was 'a national programme for building new social housing.'

It is a sadly inescapable fact of political life that when a Tory government comes in, especially one wedded to austerity at all costs, the most vulnerable people in society tend to go out onto the streets. That is definitely what has happened in the five years since 2010, it is rare now to go into town and not see at least one poor soul sat in a doorway with all they own in a few plastic bags.

Lets be clear about this from the start, having ended up on the street is seldom the fault of the homeless person him or herself, the path there leads through a landscape of misfortune and mental anguish few would visit by choice. The romantic notion of the 'gentleman of the road' living happily outside bourgeois conventions is just that; a romantic notion unrelated to reality.

The presence of so many homeless people in Hanley isn't the fault of the council either. On this issue they have tried to stem the tide of misery set loose by five years of ideologically driven assaults on the benefits system.

The blame lies squarely with David Cameron and his government, they have sat back and watched indifferently as vulnerable people have been battered from pillar to post by cuts and benefits sanctions. At the same time they have been aided and abetted by a media all too willing to pump out divisive propaganda that sets 'strivers' against 'skivers.'

Equally culpable are the Labour Party for being too weak and divided to be an effective opposition. Now at last they have a leadership at least willing to admit that free market capitalism isn't the cure for all ills and to, rather timidly, suggest there may be a fairer alternative, but the bitter Blairites on the back benches hamper them at every turn.

The solution is simple, we need to build more social housing and cap excessive rents in the private sector that drive tenants into penury. David Cameron and his country house cabinet would probably dismiss that as woolly idealism and say that market forces have to have their way, even if they drag us all over a cliff in the process.

When Green Party leader Natalie Bennett made this point during the general election the media preferred to focus on the fact that she got some of her figures wrong due to having a heavy cold; to me and, I suspect to people like Danny Flynn who see the consequences of our chronic lack of affordable housing at the sharp end it sounds like common sense.

The trouble is common sense is the first casualty of the dreary squabble amongst members of a distant elite our political discourse has descended into; the tragic outcome of this is more people than ever sleeping rough in a country rich enough to give everyone a bed for the night.