Archive for May, 2019

The county’s role in planning new homes

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

We had a visit last week from a couple of senior people from Homes England (HE), the government body which is charged with raising the number of houses being built from a historic low to levels not seen since the 1960s.  It is a daunting task, and our part in it is becoming increasingly clear.  For those with longer memories in SCC, you will remember the Homes and Communities Agency, HE’s predecessor. Some of you may remember that county councils had a formal role in planning through such devices as the structure plan.  Whilst the structure plan no longer exists, we are working with Staffordshire’s districts and boroughs to produce a Strategic Infrastructure Plan, which will create the framework into which individual developments will fit.  We have been doing this in an informal manner in the past, but, with the Council’s new strategy coming into effect last year, we have assumed a more hands-on approach.  I had a look at an early draft this week, and it’s very good.

The feedback from the HE representatives was very positive.  If Staffordshire was a listed company with shares, analysts would be rating us a “buy”.  We have a great location in the centre of the country, with a thriving economy and physical and digital connectivity of which most areas can only dream, yet our property prices are low and incomes are around the national average, which means that Staffordshire residents have more disposable income and a good quality of life.  We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent, and the aim is to build on that attractiveness with developments that meet the future housing need.  As such, we are looking at options for young and old, and energy-efficient developments for the increasingly discerning “green” customer.    

It is an exciting time to be in this area, and the next steps include an invitation to present our plans to the HE Board.  If we get this right, it will not only raise Staffordshire’s profile, but it will free up some government funding to unlock developments that work for all.

If you want to hear more from Mark Parkinson, who has developed our Strategic Infrastructure Plan, you can watch him at the recent Business Brief here.

The benefits of ‘Thinking Outside the Box’

Monday, May 20th, 2019

After a week off, it was straight back into it this week, but in a good way.  This week also marks my 4th anniversary in this appointment, which, as well as being an opportunity to reflect, makes this the longest job that I’ve ever done.  In the military, although you stay with the same employer, you never stay longer than 3 years in any one appointment, and usually a lot less.  Looking back on it, I think that they might be missing something, as I now see many of the things that we started in my early days coming to fruition – our renewed focus on delivery, strategy linked more strongly to tactics, a people strategy in place and digital and smart working taking hold.  I’m enormously grateful to all members and colleagues. 

A really good example of linking strategy to tactics came to my attention this week from Alison Hasdell of the Care Market Development Team (CMDT).  Providing Home Care for some of Staffordshire’s most vulnerable residents is one of our most important tasks, and one of the most difficult.  The profession has suffered from a poor reputation as a career, with 40% staff turnover annually, poor morale and the consequent fragility of providers; you simply can’t run an organisation effectively if you’re recruiting, training and exiting close to half your staff every year.  The CMDT have launched a Health & Social Care sector membership package for Staffordshire Care Providers in association with the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce. This is the first health & social care package developed specifically for businesses in this sector nationally. It offers care providers access to a range of support, guidance and networking to help grow and sustain successful care businesses, drawing on the advice and support of other dynamic Staffordshire business leaders.

We are really proud that the team has forged a partnership with Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce to help Staffordshire care providers recruit and retain staff.   For me, this is a practical example of our people “thinking outside the box”; it involves a bit more effort now, but it will reap benefits in the future. If it is successful in Staffordshire, it could, and indeed should, be rolled out nationwide.