Archive for July, 2013

Local Government Association conference in Manchester

Monday, July 15th, 2013

There was intense debate about the future role of councils at the Local Government Association conference in Manchester earlier this month. How can we improve the lot of local people and our communities when government funding continues to decrease? What really struck me during these debates was how often the ideas and innovations held up as models for the future are already happening right here in Staffordshire, for example:

  • Health and social care integration was highlighted in the Chancellor’s recent spending review as a key way of improving the health and wellbeing of older people in particular, while delivering massive savings. We launched Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent NHS Partnership Trust 15 months ago, which remains the largest body of its kind in the country, offering a better system for those who rely on it, with more preventative, early-response work, and fewer hospital visits
  • The District Deals we have struck with a number of our local district and borough councils to work together on growing our economies and creating more jobs for residents, linked to our bid for a City Deal. Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis was among those to praise the district deals during an event we organised at the LGA conference with our partners at Stoke-on-Trent City Council
  • Last year we launched an Education Trust that brings councils, leading businesses and our colleges and universities together. It aims to make sure that training courses, apprenticeships and workplace training produce the skilled workers needed by local firms, in particular in advanced materials and manufacturing. To help us build on this work, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced at the LGA conference that Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent would be one of just three areas to pilot a new approach to skills and training, with financial incentives on offer.

I could give many more examples of areas where the County Council is increasingly seen as a national leader and innovator, in challenging times. This isn’t about giving ourselves a pat on the back – it is about recognising that we are delivering better outcomes for people in Staffordshire, and striving to give our residents every opportunity to prosper, be healthy and be happy. The challenges we face are not going to get any easier in the years to come, so collectively we need to continue the excellent work we are doing, at pace, to create a better future for Staffordshire and its people.

The talent for evolution

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

MJ AwardIt has been a whirlwind couple of weeks featuring national awards, major progress on the City Deal, and news of further challenges to come for councils like Staffordshire.

Back on 20th June I was proud and privileged to help collect two prizes at the MJ Awards 2013, the annual celebration of excellence in local government. The county council was joint winner of the Community Investor award with Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Councils for the i54 South Staffordshire development, and also winner of the Innovation in Communication category for the Families First campaign. Staffordshire was also highly commended in the Best Achieving Council category, marking us out as one of the very best in the country.

For me the real importance of this national recognition is twofold – firstly it demonstrates what talented, innovative and hard-working staff we have here in Staffordshire, but more fundamentally to win awards like this, we had to show that we are having a real and positive impact on the people and communities we serve. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this success.

This national recognition is also enormously valuable when we campaign for a better deal for Staffordshire from Government. Last week I was part of a delegation of members and officers from the county and our partners at Stoke-on-Trent City Council who enjoyed a positive meeting with Treasury Minister Greg Clark about our City Deal bid. This important project aims to create over 28,000 jobs across the city and county over 10 years and after feedback from the Minister, we are now fine tuning our proposals ahead of a decisive meeting with a larger group of Ministers later in July.

The importance of job creating, economy boosting initiatives such as the City Deal and i54 South Staffordshire was emphasised by the Chancellor’s spending review last week. The county council, through your hard work, has transformed the way we work and delivered huge savings in recent years, while delivering better outcomes for local people. We will need to do more of the same in the years ahead but as the MJ awards and progress on the City Deal make clear, in our workforce, we have the talent, commitment and energy to deliver, and to keep having a positive impact on the people and communities that we serve.