No referendum on Stoke-on-Trent City Council's Hanley HQ move
CALLS for a referendum on relocating council workers to a new £40 million HQ were rejected as councillors voted overwhelmingly to press on with the Central Business District.
A motion tabled by opposition councillors for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to scrap its move from Stoke to Hanley was thrown out after almost three hours of debate last night.
The ruling Labour group faced calls for a full public vote on the scheme, which it dismissed as too expensive.
Up to £55 million – much of it loaned – will pay for two council offices designed to attract private firms to the CBD.
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Opposition members accused the council of attempting to create 'Hanley-on-Trent' and gambling public money.
Labour insisted the move will create 4,500 jobs and said the opposition has failed to suggest an alternative for reviving the city's economy.
Unaffiliated councillor Paul Breeze, who tabled the motion, said: "I implore all councillors to listen to the heartfelt cries of significant swathes of the electorate across all wards of our city who want you to stop this reckless gamble.
"Don't do this to the heart and soul of our city. Don't let this happen or you will never be forgiven."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, said: "They tell us this is part of the Mandate for Change. Whose mandate is this? It has caused harsh resentment all across the city.
"If this is a mandate by the people then why don't you hold a referendum to see what people actually think?"
Councillor Andy Lilley, who quit Labour yesterday in a row over £2 million cuts to workers' pay, attended the meeting as an unaffiliated member and voted to scrap the relocation.
City Independent Randy Conteh said: "You have got the whole city up in arms, planning marches and putting in petitions left, right and centre.
"You talk about value for money. What about the value of people and their opinion?"
Former mayor Terry Follows called on the council to build the CBD in Stoke – exploiting its rail and transport links.
A host of Labour councillors referred to the backing of business leaders like Stoke City chairman Peter Coates, whose comments featured in an advertisement to promote the CBD in The Sentinel yesterday.
They also accused the opposition of fuelling an 'illusion' that money loaned for new buildings could be spent on protecting decimated services.
Leader Mohammed Pervez said: "The opposition has put forward a motion to block jobs and growth. They have not told us their plan because they do not have one."
Deputy leader Paul Shotton said: "Doing nothing is not an option. This is not about shiny new offices for councillors, it's about jobs and growth."