2,700 urge council to halt Hanley HQ plan
ALMOST 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding Stoke-on-Trent City Council abandons its plans to move to a plush new headquarters.
The city council will switch to a new £55 million civic centre in the proposed Central Business District in Hanley.
But traders and residents fear Stoke will be cut adrift when the current civic centre shuts and 1,300 council workers leave the town in 2015.
Now members of Stoke Socialist Party say the 2,700 names they have so far collected show that there is anger about the move from across the city, not just in Stoke.
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Organiser Andy Bentley, aged 59, who lives in Hanley, said: "There's massive anger about what is taking place. Particularly when the council want to borrow money to build a new headquarters, that is not needed, at the same time that it is cutting jobs and services.
"We would not be opposed, in principle, to the council moving to a new headquarters – but not at the same time as there have been so many cuts, with more to come.
"People are incensed by it. We have had stalls collecting signatures across the city, in Longton, Hanley, Stoke, and outside the civic centre.
"If the council borrows millions of pounds, how much will the taxpayers end up having to pay back, over a period of what could be years and years."
Jim Gibson, aged 60, of Homer Place, and chairman of Chell Heath Residents' Association, said: "It just beggars belief, especially when they are getting rid of jobs and services are going down the drain.
"It is going to kill Stoke stone dead."
But Tom Simpson, aged 55, of Ridge Road, and secretary of Sandyford and Goldenhill Residents' Association, said: "I've always been so proud of Stoke, but I do think Hanley has to look like a city centre. I can understand people being up in arms, but the city has to move forward."
The council says its move is key to the success of the Central Business District being created – arguing the move will stimulate growth and attract new jobs.
The authority also says it will try to raise much of the cash needed to fund the move by selling off surplus land and property.
Council and Labour group leader Mohammed Pervez, said: "Despite deep cuts to our funding from Government we are doing everything possible to stimulate jobs and growth in our city.
"We can borrow money at a low interest rate to fund regeneration projects such as the Central Business District but not to run services. Jobs is our number one priority and that is what this is all about."
Volunteers will collect signatures for the petition in Hanley on Saturday.