Archive for December, 2010

Out on the front line

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The week started with the announcement of the Local Government Finance settlement.  This effectively is the amount of money local councils will have to spend next year.  You may have seen our politicians on national television explaining that we were thoroughly prepared for this. 

Despite receiving less funding, we are confident we will continue to deliver vital services by working smarter and more closely with partners in the public and voluntary sectors.  We’re already achieving significant savings and have a sound financial base, which was reflected in our recent decision to impose a zero per cent council tax rise for 2011/12.

I know that many of you are concerned about the impact of these decisions on your own lives and jobs.  We will continue to keep you informed about these changes and be as transparent as we can.  Look out in the New Year for more Your Voice sessions when you will have the opportunity to ask members of the Senior Leadership Team in more detail about our plans.

Many of our front line workers are also at the heart of their communities and do sterling work.  On Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Bentley, a lollipop man in Silverdale Road in Wolstanton, while he was on duty in the morning rush hour.  Bob has worked for the Crossing Patrol service for around 8 years and wrote to me in the summer as part of the What’s Your Story campaign inviting me to visit him at work.

He was hugely enthusiastic about the job and the role he plays in his community, working not just for the children, but also with the parents.  He even knew many of the drivers that pass him (mostly with a friendly wave!).  By the end of his shift I had a really good view of the job and the crucial role it plays in the local community.

 He and I share a keen interest in cricket, so like Bob and many others, I will be getting up early this weekend to watch the England team in Perth.  Given the weather forecast for the weekend I think it will be a great excuse not to brave the wintry conditions too early!

Awards and appointments

Friday, December 10th, 2010

I am in real danger of repeating myself this week with a continued focus on snow, awards and appointments! But please read on, there is more….

Our award winners receive their awards.

 As I look out of my window today there is the welcome sight of rain and temperatures have risen above freezing for the first time in weeks. The team effort to keep Staffordshire moving has been brilliant – from colleagues in highways, the contact centres, as well as on the front-line keeping our vulnerable residents safe, schools open and school meals provided.

In county council this week, the Chairman celebrated the success of our recent award winners by re-presenting them with their awards. A vast range of areas were represented: communications, waste, social care, children’s services, tourism, training and animal health. It was great to see so many of you putting Staffordshire on the map regionally and nationally.

I mentioned last week that we had concluded the process of recruiting to the vacant SLT posts, you may have seen my email earlier in the week announcing that Catherine Raines and Jacqui McKinlay had been appointed as Deputy Chief Executive/Director of Place and Director of Communications and Customer Services respectively. This week has also seen the publication of the new structures for the operational management team for the whole authority. Another sign that the implementation of our new way of working is continuing at pace. I appreciate this change can be unsettling however I know that for many of you confirmation of these structure is welcomed.

Cabinet viewers out there will already be aware that the process to identify and agree the priorities that will drive our business and budget decisions for next year is well underway. This work is particularly important as we are faced with reduced budgets and need to ensure we are providing the most appropriate services to the right people.

There are nine draft priorities that will form the basis of our new strategic plan. You will be hearing much more about these over the coming months but as you would anticipate improving prosperity, supporting families and our communities feature heavily.

 Work is also continuing behind the scenes to the agree the budget for 2011/12, thank you to everyone for their hard work to identify savings and find innovative ways to continue to deliver vital services. More news to follow in the coming weeks.

Regards,

 Nick

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

In many families, opinion is divided about the snow.  My son is very keen, and has been sledging and building a snowman.  Personally, I turn into a grumpy old man!  While I appreciate how beautiful the Staffordshire countryside looks, I know the snow and ice is making getting to work something of a challenge for many of you and keeping our highways teams especially busy.  It also makes it that bit more difficult to provide a good service to our customers.  So, thank you to everyone for your huge efforts over the last few days – it is noticed, and much appreciated.

I’m pleased that we are keeping residents up to date on weather conditions and highways action.  You can access this too, via our own Twitter page.  The updates will include the areas where officers will be gritting and any expected adverse conditions such as ice and snow.  Follow us at http://twitter.com/StaffordshireCC/ and click on #staffstwitgrit to get the latest updates. 

This is a great and very popular use of new media to communicate with our residents – I hope we will be able to use it more over a wider range of services in the future.

Elsewhere it has been a busy week, with interviews for the Directors for Place and for Customer Service and Communications.  These are critical posts and the final pieces in the jigsaw for our senior team.  I hope to be able to share the results very soon.

I am always delighted to share news of awards with you.  We have been shortlisted twice in the LGC (Local Government Association) Awards 2011.  We have been shortlisted in the ‘Workforce’ category for the Parent Support Workers Induction and Training Package’.  Working in partnership with other Staffordshire County Council departments, the seven day induction programme created an opportunity for the newly created posts, allowing those staff to come away with qualifications such as Level 1 in Child Protection. 

Shortlisted in the ‘Innovation’ category, W2R (Waste to Resource) first began in 2007 and was created as a project to help achieve zero waste to landfill in Staffordshire, to inevitably make significant savings on waste management costs and meet Government targets. To help do this the WR2 acquired a site where they went on to gain permission for a generic plant.   The results will be given at an awards ceremony on the 23 March 2011.

Let’s hope we get good results for these when the awards are announced – as with all your fantastic work its not only good for our customers but also helps to place Staffordshire firmly on the map as a place that is doing great things.

I’ll sign off now and look forward to my snowman building duties this weekend…

 Nick