Posts Tagged ‘MPs’

Meetings, volunteers and MPs

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

As I’m sure that readers will agree, one gets weeks where it’s fairly inward-focussed, and then weeks when the focus is outwards – this last week has been one of the latter for me, but all of the events have striking relevance for what we are looking to achieve.  I spent Wednesday attending the Midlands Engine Executive Board, where our Council Leader, Philip Atkins is a member.  I was there because we are taking over from Nottingham City Council as the Accountable Body for the Midlands Engine.  It’s a fascinating time to be take on this role, with the Government signalling that this will be their route to “levelling up” for the Midlands.  We can therefore expect that the large projects which Midlands Engine undertakes will be being channelled through us.  It’s a big job, but we are ready for it.

The meeting took place at the National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough, a pioneering example of cooperation between the National Health Service and the Defence Medical Services.  The Defence Rehabilitation Centre has been running there for 2 years, since it moved from Headley Court in Surrey, undertaking the physical and mental rehabilitation of soldiers, sailors and airmen wounded and injured on operations, predominantly in Afghanistan, but also worldwide.  A huge amount has been learned from this complex and emotional mission, particularly in prosthetics and neurological care, and it was excellent to see that the learning will be applied to civilians who are injured and require similar rehabilitation.   

On a very different subject, I joined the Canals and Rivers Trust for their annual meeting in the Council Chamber on Thursday evening.  It became clear from listening to this passionate and energetic group of narrowboat enthusiasts that we both share many of their aims, but also that we can learn from them, particularly in terms of mobilising volunteers.  Clearly, the common love of canals and boats gives them an identity and ethos, but the scale of projects that they undertake in rebuilding and maintaining canals and footpaths is breath-taking.  I left feeling energised for our People Helping People programme and #DoingOurBit.

Lastly this week, we welcomed the newly-elected MPs to County Buildings on Friday afternoon; Theo Clarke MP from Stafford, Aaron Bell MP from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kate Griffiths MP from Burton, Jonathan Gullis MP from Stoke North, and Jo Gideon MP from Stoke Central.  The discussions were wide-ranging and very positive; they share our ambitions for Staffordshire – see above for the “levelling up” agenda from Government – and we will work with them over the next 5 years to achieve them.  It is also impressive that our MPs identify as a group in this Parliament, which will help enormously in gaining the advantages that we seek for Staffordshire.  Their constituency workers accompanied them to meet Kate Bullivant and her team to ensure that we get off to the right start in ensuring that the MPs’ Enquiries are correctly addressed, and I have to say that I was impressed with the excellent level of conversation and engagement in both sessions.   

A meeting with MPs

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Philip Atkins and I spent part of Monday in Westminster for one of our regular catch-ups with the County’s MPs.  It’s always an interesting session, and, given the understandable preoccupation with Brexit in Parliament, it was a pleasant surprise that 6 of our 9 MPs attended in person, with the others represented by their constituency workers.  In slightly over an hour, we had a spirited and good-humoured conversation that covered pretty much everything that the County Council does for Staffordshire residents.

Of course, the question that we were all waiting to be answered is the final outcome of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, delayed until this week because of the Brexit debate.  This is frustrating, but we have had some clarity on at least 2 parts of the money question.  We will be getting an additional £8.89M for highway repair, a repeat of this year’s Adult Social Care grant of £3.5M specifically to ease winter pressures next year, and an additional £6.05M for social care more widely – children’s and adults’.  The main area of uncertainty is the awaited result of our Business Rates Retention Pilot, which would be probably the only money to come without any strings attached.  Of course, it’s all “one-year money” which means that we can’t plan beyond April 2020 with any certainty around it, but it is welcome nonetheless.

A lot of work is currently being done to ensure that we get best value for money, but we think that the conditions are reasonable and will allow us to achieve maximum effect.  If there is a downside, it is that there is little prospect of being able to roll back the MTFS measures which we have published, and we will have to implement what will be a difficult plan.  The extra money will undoubtedly make the implementation easier than it might otherwise have been.

In summary, we are fortunate in having the support of our MPs; they have lobbied strongly on our behalf throughout this difficult year.  Of course, they will be challenging and want us to solve issues for Staffordshire residents, just as our elected Members do, but they do understand the pressures under which we are operating.  Leaving Westminster and the atmosphere generated by the Brexit debate, I was very happy to be returning to the relative calm and sanity of Staffordshire.

Sometimes you have to count your blessings.