Archive for November, 2014

Out and about with the District Commissioning Leads

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

“Over the past few weeks I have been getting out and about and seeing some of the good work we do on the ground.  So far I have been out with our District Commissioning Leads for Cannock Chase (Angela), Lichfield (Wayne) and Tamworth (Tim).  What I am learning is that there is some wonderful stuff going on which reiterates how important the county council remains in making good things happen for the benefit of our residents, even if it is increasingly us acting in a facilitative role rather than as a provider.  What it has also brought home to me is how important our District Commissioning Leads are to our future plans, and confirms that we are right to use them as the focal point of our work around localities.  They are close enough to local communities so that they can help shape future commissioning plans, and target them with pin-point accuracy on the needs of our local communities rather than offering “one size fits all” solutions.

Recently we have also made some changes to who leads our key projects.  We have about 18 key “change” projects which, if we can land them all, will ensure we have a sustainable and successful future.  Some of our key people have too many of these projects in their areas, so we have had to make some changes so that other parts of the organisation are pitching in to help. This is about getting the right leaders, with the right skills, on the right projects to make sure we do everything we need to do for a successful future.  By delivering these priority projects, and keeping a tight grip on the day job and our finances, we can look to the future with real optimism, and I am happy to say that I have absolute confidence in the leadership we have put in place to deliver on this.

Finally, I couldn’t not mention our wonderful Connect Awards last week.  This was a fabulous event, I enjoyed every minute of it, and I am only sorry that we could not squeeze more people into the event.  It was really nice to speak to some of the people who were shortlisted which helped to bring their stories to life, and it was really nice to see how much they valued us celebrating their efforts. Well done to all the winners, and the finalists, and the event organisers,  and I am already looking forward to next year’s event.”

Remembrance and partnerships

Friday, November 14th, 2014

“A couple of things to mention in this edition of my blog.  On 11th November I attended the Armistice commemoration at the National Memorial Arboretum.  It’s great for Staffordshire that this has now become one of the major national events around Remembrance Day, and it is a fitting venue for such an event.  I always find the Armed Forces Memorial, with the long and ever growing list of names, to be quite moving, and it is even more poignant when it is the centre piece of an event such as the one on Tuesday.  Even in the pouring rain many people had come to pay their respects, and the event was marked as well by a flypast of a Spitfire (particularly fitting because of the Spitfire’s Staffordshire connections).

This week has also been notable by a visit from a delegation from our partner city of Ivanovo, in Russia.  This is a partnership that has developed over many years and has now moved beyond just a cultural and civic link to being about how we can learn from each other on a practical level.   It is interesting to see that they face many of the same issues as we do e.g. such as substance misuse, and it is good to have the chance to show them how we and partners are dealing with this issue in Staffordshire, and to hear from them how they approach these issues back home.  One of the interesting cultural differences I have found is that their approach to toasting at meals is very different to ours.  A meal with them is punctuated by someone rising to their feet and making a toast, so whenever I dine with them I have a toast or two ready in order to respond!”

Royal stamp of approval for i54 South Staffordshire

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

What an absolutely fabulous week last week!  I had the great privilege of meeting the Queen at the opening of the Jaguar Land Rover engine factory at i54 South Staffordshire, which is now one of the jewels in Staffordshire’s economic crown.  This is a £500m high-tech manufacturing plant creating 1,400 jobs which, but for the actions of Staffordshire County Council and its local authority partners, could quite well have gone elsewhere, possibly even to India. A great day for Staffordshire, and a reminder that we in local government still matter, and can help make a real difference to our communities.

Earlier in the week we had the eagerly awaited report from HS2 Chairman Sir David Higgins recommending to Government that the HS2 station between Birmingham and Manchester should be at Crewe rather than Stoke.   Assuming this is taken on board, it will obviously disappoint colleagues in Stoke, but it should mean the line having less direct impact on communities in Staffordshire.  The key now is that we work hard, with hopefully the same success as we have enjoyed in relation to the first stage of HS2, to ensure that proper mitigation is put in place by HS2 to protect Staffordshire residents affected by the line, and to ensure that we take maximum economic advantage of the proximity of the three HS2 stations at Birmingham, Crewe, and East Midlands.

This week, we reach the mid-point of our Best Start (Early Years) consultation. This is really important because it will influence the approach we take to ensuring our under 5’s are happy, healthy, and ready for school.  At the moment only a quarter of our families benefit from the Early Years’ services in our Children’s Centres, and only a quarter of those are services for our most vulnerable families. So change is needed, and this consultation will help to shape that change.  What I would ask, therefore, is that you use this opportunity to share with us your views on the consultation, and you have until  3rd December to go to http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/education/childcare/Best-Start/AnewstrategyfortheBestStartinLife.aspx and give us your opinion on the proposals.

It has been such a busy and exciting time that I could go on, but I will cut myself short and look forward to sharing my next update with you!