Relocation of council HQ to Hanley is 'sheer madness', say Save our Stoke campaigners
CITY council leader Mohammed Pervez was heckled by residents at a public meeting as he pledged Stoke town 'will not suffer' as a result of the authority's relocation to Hanley.
Save our Stoke campaigners handed over a petition against the new £40 million HQ at a full council meeting last night.
Lord Mayor Terry Crowe threatened to adjourn the meeting and have residents evicted from the public gallery after Mr Pervez's rebuke to the petition was drowned out by jeers.
Richard Snell, aged 66, of Honeywall, Stoke, co-ordinator of the Save our Stoke campaign, told the chamber: "The residents of this city are bitterly angry. Your plans, which make so much sense to you, are sheer madness to the rest of us.
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"Stoke town is traditionally the home of Stoke-on-Trent's government. We insist that you keep it that way.
"Moving the civic offices at such vast expense is a giant step too far. The people of Stoke-on-Trent pay you to look after their interests. It's about time you did so."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, said: "You will leave Stoke barren – that is unless you are going to borrow another £40 million to spend here."
Independent councillor Randy Conteh, who represents Penkhull and Stoke, asked for the petition to be referred to a scrutiny committee 'for a full public debate'.
But ruling Labour members rejected his proposal as cabinet approval for the Civic Centre sale has already been given.
Traders and residents fear Stoke will be cut adrift by the relocation of 1,300 workers to Hanley's Central Business District.
The council insists it will be able to sell the Civic Centre, King's Hall and Spode to a major developer.
Mr Pervez said: "People need to wake up to the reality of the amount of work that is going into the city centre and our city.
"Building Schools for the Future is bringing £260 million investment with £60 million put in by the council, a state-of-the-art bus station is being built which will open the doors to a £350 million private sector shopping and leisure complex.
"This will be followed by the Central Business District, of which we're becoming the anchor tenant to ensure we bring further investment into the city centre, which is for the whole city.
"In terms of the future for Stoke town. I'm confident we'll put the spending power back into these buildings and Stoke will not suffer in the long run."
Socialist Party members staged a small demonstration before the meeting.
Andy Bentley, Staffordshire organiser of the Socialist Party, said: "We are protesting against the fact that this council wants to borrow millions to move 1,300 workers a mile up the road at a time of savage cuts that have seen services, libraries and swimming pools close.
"There is a lot of anger across the entire city. We will mobilise this massive opposition and continue to try to force them to back down on this decision."