Archive for June, 2010

Staffordshire 1 Germany 0, result!

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Hello – I hope most of you have recovered from England’s inglorious exit from the World Cup.

I have to say (although I hate to admit it) we were beaten by a side that was better prepared, more imaginative and justifiably has a higher reputation on the big stage – exactly where we want Staffordshire to be.  This links nicely to some of the visits I’ve been making around the county in the last week.

I had the pleasure of visiting Staffordshire Learning Technologies (SLT) at Hixon.  SLT is a county council trading organisation supplying schools with their IT equipment. They have to be very customer focussed because schools could quite easily go elsewhere if they don’t deliver what is required.

 So it is true testimony that they have virtually 100 per cent “buy-back”. They know how to optimise services to meet the customer’s requirements and have earned a reputation for excellent service. I was truly impressed by the work they are doing with some cutting-edge technologies.

On Monday I made my second visit to Shugborough and had a complete tour of the estate, including the walled garden, farm, mansion house and new Wild about Wildlife sculpture trail.

Shugborough really is the jewel in the crown of Staffordshire and it is clear this flagship cultural attraction is a leading light within the county’s important tourism sector.

The estate also has a critical role in establishing the council’s reputation for high quality front line services not only as a visitor attraction, but also as a major events venue and as an educational resource, with over 16,000 pupils taking part in hands-on educational tours this year.

Exciting plans for the future will see Staffordshire’s reputation further enhanced as Shugborough’s popularity in Staffordshire and beyond is increased.

Finally, back to where we began – Germany. Children from Silverdale Primary School’s schools choir have taken part in an exchange programme with youngsters from six other countries. The highlight was a hugely successful concert performance in the town of Aurich. A right result from an England international performance – Staffordshire 1, Germany 0 – if only our footballers could have achieved the same….  Ah well, there’s always Murray mania at Wimbledon to look forward to….

Today’s emergency budget

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

The details of the Chancellor’s emergency budget were announced earlier today.

As I mentioned in last week’s Chief Executive’s update, we already had an outline of what this would mean for the county council. Today’s information helps deliver some longer-term perspective to help our planning.

I appreciate this a worrying time for everyone working in the public sector, but be assured that I’ll keep you up to date with important information as soon as I have it.

I update my blog 2 or 3 times a week, and my monthly Chief Executive’s update will also give you the latest news.

You can also read the blog of Leader of the county council, Philip Atkins for his reaction to the budget.

Bye for now

Nick

Meeting staff in Stafford

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Hi – as promised earlier in the week I wanted to update you on my tour around Tipping Street and some other services around Stafford.

 On Monday I donned my hard hat, boots, gloves and bright yellow jacket (as fashion conscious as ever!) and ascended to the top level of the Tipping Street development.  It gave me a great chance to see the shape and size of the new buildings and discuss some of the aspirations for the buildings with colleagues from Development Services.  The ground floor of the buildings will include retail premises as well as the main reception, which will be a shared facility for all services in the building.  This will be a far easier layout for our customers and mean that they don’t have to go to different buildings to access the information and people they need.

 Of course the development of Tipping Street will mean new ways of working for everybody, and there is a major piece of work happening to gear everyone up for the changes well before the new offices open.  I’ll come back to this in future blogs.

 As well as Tipping Street I saw the new Highways control centre – a really good example of doing things differently to both save money and improve service to our customers, which had brought contact from customers around highways issues and their effective resolution from 5 locations cross county into one central location.

 I ended the tour visiting some of our really important direct services, with tours round print commissioning and fleet workshops, as well as meeting managers from catering, cleaning and grounds maintenance.  I was hugely impressed by the professionalism and ideas being generated by these services, which are all looking to operate across a wide range of partners to deliver really high quality, cost effective services to the whole of the Staffordshire public sector.

 I also had an opportunity to visit some of our IT staff earlier in the week.  Although often not as visible as some of our front line services, they play a critical role in ensuring that the Council can effectively operate.  Many of them were hugely busy on upgrades and changes to our SAP system and a number of my discussions were around how we make this more user friendly for everyone in the future.

 Well that’s it for now – hope the rest of the week goes well and that we can spend the weekend celebrating an overdue England victory in the World Cup!

 Bye for now

 Nick

Anne Beer gets MBE

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Hi – hope all those of you who are football fans are enjoying the early stages of the World Cup.  Not sure what England’s chances are following the indifferent game against the USA, but we live in hope…..

I attended the Chairman’s Civic Service in St Mary’s Church in Stafford on Sunday.  These events are always special occasions and help remind both Members and Officers why we are here and the impact that we can (and should) make for our residents and communities.  There was a good turn out (despite the weather) and I had a chance to chat to a number of people I hadn’t met after the ceremony, including a couple of the new MP’s for Staffordshire.

The MP’s themselves will be in for a busy time over the next few weeks in the run up to the emergency budget next Tuesday and immediately after.  While we don’t know what the budget will hold for us, we have now received details of the in-year grant cuts that form part of the immediate £6bn reduction in public spending announced a couple of weeks ago.  We will be working through the impact of this over the next week or so, but key for us will be to ensure that it doesn’t distract us from delivering our key priorities and continuing to make a difference to the people of Staffordshire.

There was great news over the weekend for one of our members of staff.  Anne Beer, a Senior Adviser in Staffordshire Trading Standards, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  This reflects the hard work that Anne, and her colleagues, have put into the service over many years.  Huge congratulations to Anne – the Council is really proud of her.

There were other honours announced for Staffordshire residents, including a knighthood for the Lord Lieutenant and an MBE for the Chief Executive of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, with whom we work closely.

That’s all for now – I’ll be back later in the week to talk about my visit yesterday to a number of DSD sites and operations across Stafford, including a visit to the wind swept top of Tipping Street in hard hat and wellys….

Bye for now

Nick

Under scrutiny

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

I spent Monday morning with a number of Members of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees, looking at their priorities for the next year.  Scrutiny plays an important role in the work of a democratically elected organisation like the County Council, and helps to ensure that the things that we do are really focussed on the needs of our communities and are having the impact that we want them to. 

Listening to the issues raised by many of the Members that impact on their communities reminded me that, while we have made huge strides in improving our services to customers and communities over the last few years, there is still a long way to go before we can truly say that we are meeting the needs and aspirations of all of them.

Cheers, Nick

Recognising and remembering our best

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Hi – made it back from euro Disney last week in one piece (although only just – either the rides are getting faster or it’s a sign of age creeping up on me!)  Hope that you all had an enjoyable time over the bank holiday weekend (though that now seems a long time ago…)

I had the privilege to attend the annual naming ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum on Saturday.  This event honours those members of the Armed Forces who have fallen in the service of their country during the past year and who have their names inscribed on the memorial.  This year there were 119 new names on the wall, a sad reflection on the conflicts that continue in Afghanistan and other areas.  Many of the families whose loved ones had been killed during the year were present at the ceremony, and it was a deeply moving experience to be there.

The volunteers who help to run the National Memorial Arboretum do a fantastic job and they have been recognised this year, along with 4 other groups in Staffordshire, with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for voluntary groups. The other groups are Landywood and District Volunteer Help Centre that provides help to older people in their community, Katherine House Hospice volunteers who provide care for the terminally ill across the County, Douglas Macmillan Hospice Volunteers that does a similar role in North Staffordshire and SCALE that helps to improve the lives of children and adults with severe physical and learning disabilities.

It is a fantastic achievement for Staffordshire groups to gain 5 of these awards (there were only 103 awarded in total) and reinforces the crucial role that voluntary groups, and the volunteers who give up their time to contribute to them, play in their local community.  One of our priorities this year is to increase volunteering across Staffordshire and this recognition gives us a great platform to start from. Find out more at our new website here http://volunteerstaffordshire.org.uk/

I’ll sign off now – hope you all have a great week (despite the weather taking a turn for the worse – Wimbledon must be just round the corner!)

Cheers

Nick

A week deputising for Nick

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I am deputising for Nick this week and this is my first taste of life as a Chief Exec, coming just three weeks after becoming a corporate director. It’s been an interesting week with a few challenges along the way.

 As many of you will have read there have been claims in the national media about the tragic case of Rebecca Smith and her brother who died in Spain.  This family was known to us here in Staffordshire before they went missing and some of your Children’s Social Care colleagues were involved in the case. 

We needed to respond to the press urgently over the Bank Holiday weekend, and to publically confirm our support to those staff who handled a very difficult set of circumstances with great professionalism and integrity. 

I went to visit the team on Thursday because I believe very firmly that as we ask such a lot from our staff they deserve recognition and support for doing such a difficult job on everyone’s behalf.

 Sadly another tragedy occurred over the Bank Holiday weekend.

 A young student suffered serious injuries during a fall at Clayton Hall Business and Language College.  An urgent Health and Safety Review was undertaken, we offered the school assistance this week and will continue to do so when the students return after half term next week. 

Our thoughts and best wishes are extended to the school, its pupils and most of all the family of the young man concerned.

 On Wednesday evening I travelled to London to participate in an event hosted by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) to examine the new Government’s Children’s Service Policy and to get a greater understanding of the direction the new coalition Government wants to take us in.

 On Friday morning I had a very productive early meeting with Dame Janet Finch, Vice Chancellor of Keele University, and hopefully we will be working very closely with Keele in the near future.

 As the week draws to a close the sun is still shining – hope you all have a good and restful weekend.

Sally Rees, Deputy Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Families.