New arrivals and challenge sessions

This week unusually had a couple of military events: the Beacon Barracks ‘End of Build’ Event on Tuesday and a dinner on Thursday with other West Midlands employers and senior Army officers.  It was interesting to be on the civilian side this time, and gave me some food for thought.  The Army, and the building contractors, have done an amazing job of completing the Beacon Barracks project so quickly, including some 450 houses for those families returning from Germany.  The trick will be integrating the families into Staffordshire, and it was reassuring to meet a corporal again whom I had last seen in Germany two years ago. He told me that his wife had started work that day in the care sector, and their daughter had started at secondary school in the town. They were now looking to buy a house, as they had decided to settle here.  That is undoubtedly the future for the armed services, living a more settled life in more stable locations.

The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) kicked off properly this week with the first Challenge Session for Place.  These are not easy discussions, but the reality is that we’re facing significant reductions in funding in the coming years and need to look at doing the best we possibly can with the 70% funding that we expect to remain. The exact amount will be confirmed in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in late November, but we have to think ahead now.  I was very impressed by the readiness of our people to defend their positions, and to look for better ways of delivering the best outcomes for the residents of Staffordshire.

I spent Friday morning on a visit to Lichfield, with Councillor Janet Eagland, focussed on the Minerals Plan.  This is a very difficult issue, and striking the balance between the needs of the construction industry and the interests of our residents will be the key to success.  It won’t be easy.

Just before heading off for the weekend, I spent a couple of hours with Steve Bergin of Alstom.  He’s a Stafford man through and through, passionate about the county and its people, and it was very useful to get his impressions not only on the company and its activities in the town, but also his views on the wider issues that we face.  The good news is that he thinks that we are doing a good job overall.  Not a bad note to end the week on.

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