Sunday, May 16, 2004

A version of this appeared in the Staffordshire Sentinel this week as a letter. The spur was lots of articles moaning about the undemocratic and pointless EU, this in a place which is dying a slow and painful death while other Northern cities sort themselves out. I'm posting it mainly for the benefit of Jess, who I know is interested in these things but has decamped to the land of fried chicken

The Potteries have much to benefit from better interaction with Europe. There is an EU directive which says companies must consult with their workers before any major change. It would have made Royal Doulton's recent actions illegal, but our Government was too slow: it will not be adopted into UK law until March 2005. Another part of Stoke's heritage gone.

Other Northern cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool have been transformed, partly by EU funding and partly by the cooperation of different sections of the community who have had the ambition to take control, attract new businesses and turn their fortunes around.

Meanwhile, Stoke-on-Trent is a priority area for funding but its leaders continue to let its industrial heritage crumble. Millions of pounds are available - for getting on with regeneration instead of arguing about it. Remember the founders of the Potteries who built a world-famous industry and a superb infrastructure of canals and railways? No endless pointless roadwork schemes for them.

Today's leaders should find out exactly what the people want - more likely to be better shopping facilities than the well-meant but ill thought-out Cultural Quarter. As the mass-production potteries go to cheaper places they should support small studios, for there is still an affluent market keen to pay for genuine Potteries products; the remaining areas with kilns would make tourist attractions if cleaned up. Stoke is full of evocative reminders of its past and most of them are falling down.

Far from being undemocratic, every EU decision goes through our own government ministers and MEPs: if they do not act in our interests it is because we are not watching them closely enough. How can we when the media barely covers European politics? The elections on June 10th give us the chance to learn what the EU can offer, so use your vote and demand more action from MEPs.

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