Devolution and Cooperation

The autumn season will be dominated by our MTFS and Business Plan, of which more later, but first I hope that all our Staffordshire colleagues managed to get some well-deserved holiday during the summer, even if the weather was not the best.

Devolution has continued to take a proportion of our time and attention, as we work out what is genuinely best for the people of Staffordshire. Friday was the deadline for bids to Central Government, and it is clear that the West Midlands Combined Authority, including the seven Metropolitan city and district councils, will make a bid for greater control of transport, mental health and planning, among other areas.  An excellent meeting with Keith Ireland, Managing Director of Wolverhampton City Council, on Wednesday gave us an indication of what lies in store.  The short answer is lots more work, but in essence no reduction in our already close cooperation with the Combined Authority and its members.  In the meantime, our own politicians across the county and in Stoke will be meeting soon to build a political consensus on what we want for Staffordshire.  It is gratifying to note that everybody is concentrating on outcomes and improvements, rather than governance and structures – long may that continue.

Philip Atkins and I had two Business Meetings the week before last in Lichfield and Keele.  It was really useful to get the unvarnished opinions of business people on what we should be doing for them.  Two observations – they were more than slightly surprised by the range and scale of what SCC does, and they want us to take a leading role in building the county’s name.  Neither is a great surprise, but we might usefully explain ourselves and our roles more effectively to our citizens; and lively discussions on such subjects as whether Ironman in the county is a good thing (we came to the conclusion that it was) were very helpful.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the Peak District with Sarah Fowler, the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park..  Sarah has a clear vision for the National Park in which we can play a supporting role.  We are very fortunate in the UK with our pragmatic approach to such areas. We look after them differently to the way I saw it done when I lived in the United States, and more especially in Germany: our mixed use of the landscape, with people living and working inside the parks, makes them much more accessible, as well as preserving traditional communities and skills and wildlife.  It is a delicate balance, but a very British compromise.

This week, Andy Burns gave me the timeline for the Business Plan and MTFS meetings, which promises to fill many of our calendars for the period running up to Christmas. The key issue for all of us this year and in coming years is to deliver the outcomes and services for which we are responsible, while sticking to our spending plans and commitments. That will only happen with the requisite attention to detail and self-discipline from all of us.

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