Archive for September, 2013

Do you feel safe?

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Research shows that crime is reducing, yet people’s fear of crime – their perception about their likelihood of being a victim of crime – remains high, which concerns organisations right across the public sector, including the County Council, the Police and national government. Fear of crime can massively affect people’s quality of life leading to isolation and mistrust in communities. We want to challenge these misconceptions, keep people informed about the issues that matter to them most, and help them feel safer.

Staffordshire is a safe place to live. Incidences of crime are falling every year.  What’s more, you are less likely to be a victim of crime than ever before. So it’s a worry that in some communities in our county, more than 25% of people are fearful of being a victim.

Here in Staffordshire, we are tackling the issue head on, but we can’t do it alone, we need to work with others and with communities to make safety a priority. This is why in partnership with Staffordshire Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, borough and parish councils, and Age UK, we’re launching a campaign to help people feel safer and enjoy their communities more. This campaign is about realising our vision to create a connected county where everyone can prosper, be healthy, happy – and safe.

Our first stage is to listen. There are complex reasons for why people are fearful of crime and different people fear different things.  We’ll be engaging with people in communities where fear of crime is highest, yet actual crime low, to understand what makes them feel safe – and what doesn’t. We’ll do this through events, our innovative new online listening app, via social media and traditional surveys. The information we gather will then be used to inform the next stage of the campaign to explain how, as a partnership, we’re ‘watching’ and preventing the crimes that people are fearful of. The final stage of the campaign will explain how all partners are working together to act on crime, and will encourage people to get involved and volunteer with organisations to support their communities to be safer. Empowering individuals and communities can inspire greater independence, better integration and reduce loneliness.

This campaign is ambitious, and unique, bringing together organisations from across the region. If it’s successful, there’s every chance it may replicated in other areas.

Ultimately, Staffordshire is one of the safest places in the country to live – and we believe that by addressing people’s fears, we will help them to feel as safe as they actually are.

You can offer your own thoughts about how safe you feel by filling in the online survey now.

Back to school

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

It was back to school for many across the county, and it certainly seems that the weather after a short burst of sunshine is adapting to the autumn term! This time of year always reminds me of how crucial education is. It’s the best lever for young people to access the world, which is why continuing to provide access to high quality education is so important for our children and young people in the region, giving them the best chance in life.

Whilst there have been a lot of changes in education recently, we are a local and regional leader and education therefore needs our undivided attention. It’s not just about how good education benefits life chances, it’s the basis for building the skills that we need to attract high flying companies  to Staffordshire and to create the jobs that will diversify and enrich our economy.

You’ve probably heard in the media, stories about the availability of primary school places, and providing school places is a key part of what we do. The expected crunch in some areas is unlikely to be repeated in Staffordshire. This year we added 211 reception places for 2013 through building a brand new school in Burton, rebuilding and remodelling existing schools, and by making the best use of existing accommodation. We’re also on target to create the extra 2,500 new primary school places we need over the next five years, and despite pressures on school places, 97 per cent of parents have been allocated one of their top three preferred primary schools. Increased demand for school places is a challenge but the upside is that this means we’ll have more young adults after years of concern about our aging population.

The overall welfare of pupils is also important. We’ve invested £1 million as part of a capital programme of improvements to help schools be safer and more energy efficient, reducing energy costs through schemes such as, upgrading boilers, improving heating controls and installing more energy efficient lighting. This benefits everyone with lower CO2 emissions and energy bill reductions across Council services.

Our partner Entrust has also recruited an experienced Executive Chef to provide healthy and nutritious school meals using, where feasible, Staffordshire suppliers: our fresh meat comes from two Staffordshire butchers, fresh fruit and vegetables from four Staffordshire greengrocers, and our milk from a Staffordshire dairy. Keeping it local also, of course, helps to boost our economy, but also provides a lesson to all of us about how it is possible to provide using our local area and rural economy.

Education is important to all of us, pupils, family, the wider community, this Council and our partners. Together we can create the schools we want, and provide the very best education so that our young people are prepared for the world with the skills that they need.