Archive for November, 2017

Remembrance, and St Peter’s Bridge

Monday, November 13th, 2017

I am extremely proud of Staffordshire’s close links with the military, and therefore it was humbling to see so many people in our county pay their respects to the fallen over the weekend. Staffordshire is of course home to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, which has become a national focal point for those wishing to pay their respects to those who gave their lives during conflict.  These acts of remembrance are taking on an extra poignancy as we look towards 2018 and mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Last week we announced the reopening of St Peter’s Bridge in Burton, some three weeks ahead of schedule.  The work on the bridge effectively involved rebuilding it, stripping it back to the concrete sections that were put in place in the 1980s, repairing them, replacing the bearings on which the sections sit, and rebuilding the decking and services that run through the structure.  As a mechanical engineer, it’s not unusual to poke fun at the seemingly heavy and unsophisticated business of civil engineering, but this really was a complex project which used some very sophisticated materials and techniques, not least in ensuring that the weatherproofing for the concrete sections would protect them for another 40 years.  I couldn’t help also but be impressed with the logistics and planning, which built a measure of flexibility into the programme.  I’m very grateful to the Amey team and the leadership demonstrated by our Highways Department and the Amey engineers in getting to this point in a calm and understated manner.  I don’t underestimate the disruption that this project has caused in Burton, to businesses and residents alike, and we now must turn similar efforts to helping local businesses recover and improve their performance.  The “Get Vocal About Local” campaign is just a start; we have established a firmer link with the Burton Chambers of Commerce, and both organisations want to build on this in the coming weeks and months.

Putting you front and centre

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Hopefully, you will have received my email message on the recent Connecting Us survey.  For me, that the indicators are all rising in terms of satisfaction is reassuring, but I am definitely not complacent.  We’ll do some in-depth analysis, but my initial observation is that there is still some way to go in the perceptions of managing change.  It’s improving, but I’d like to see a more rapid ascent.  The rewriting of our strategy this winter will be an opportunity to connect it properly with our Delivery Plan and MTFS.  I would like to place our workforce “front and centre” as one of the enablers – to look again at the values that we espouse, consider whether our policies support them, and rewrite them if necessary.  I will be coming back to you with some more thoughts on this in the coming weeks, as I’m firmly of the belief that the best way of achieving success in these areas is by engaging early and often. 

I met Sir Neil Mackay, the new Chair of the Health and Care Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) last week.  Sir Neil has a national reputation which is well-earned in NHS leadership, and we are fortunate that he will be working with us.  I was very pleased to hear his views that he thought that the plan was good, but that it needed a better narrative.  I would certainly agree with that sentiment.  He was also taken by the need to find some “quick wins” to demonstrate that the STP can deliver real change and improvement, which is again something that I would agree with.  There comes a time in any endeavour where one needs to move from theory into practice, and the STP is very much at that point in time.  Sir Neil’s arrival is timely.     

I also met Chris Blackwell, the new CE of Entrust.  Chris has a strong background in growing businesses in the skills and education arena, which is the skill-set that the company needs in the current environment of academisation.  Put bluntly, the education landscape has changed immensely since we formed Entrust, and the company has struggled to keep up and ahead of the market.  I sense that Chris is somebody who will bring a new focus to the business, which will be invaluable as we strive to continue the improvements in Staffordshire’s schools.