Posts Tagged ‘Weather’

The Annual CCN Conference, and our hard-working highways engineers.

Monday, November 25th, 2019

Last week the Council Leader, Philip Atkins, a number of Cabinet members and myself attended the annual County Councils Network Conference.  With the General Election campaign ongoing, there were no leading national politicians there, but that gave us the chance to concentrate on the issues that face all county councils across England.  There were excellent sessions about children’s services, the challenges of improving adult social care, and many others.  I find this probably the most useful of the few conferences which I normally attend, as it is more focussed than those which cover the whole local government sector.  We are all doing the same things in different places, and as a result there is much learning to be had.  One thing that was noticeable was that, despite the uncertainty of Brexit and the outcome of the General Election, morale was robust.

With this very wet autumn, which is such a contrast to last year’s 5 month summer drought and dry winter, spare a thought for our highways crews who are working across the county to keep traffic moving.  One aspect that has struck me is that our work in mapping and analysing the drainage system appears to be paying off.  About four years ago, we didn’t know how many drains (gulleys in the highways vernacular) we had and where they were.  We do now – we have 148,000 of them across the 6,400km of roads in the county.  Having done that piece of work, which was an accomplishment in itself, our highways engineers then worked out which ones need cleaning more often than others. Like so many things in life, putting in the effort up front before the emergency reduces the effort required to recover from the emergency.  And so it has been with the recent flooding.  The system relies on Severn Trent Water’s mains drains and the Environment Agency’s stewardship of our rivers, but the water has abated more quickly in known flooding areas on our roads than it has done previously.  We will need to keep an eye on the pattern of rainfall as the climate changes, to work out whether the overall system is capable of dealing with it, so there’s no room for complacency, but so far, so good.      

Thanks to our gritting crews, a ministerial visit, and recognition for Families First

Monday, March 5th, 2018

I couldn’t start this week’s entry with anything other than the winter weather – the combination of snow and wind has made it especially challenging for those keeping the roads clear. Our gritting crews have been flat out for the best part of a week now, and they’ve done a magnificent job. We shouldn’t also forget the Fleetcare crews who have been keeping them on the road in some of most inhospitable conditions for mechanical machinery.

We had a visit from Nadhim Zahawi MP, the newly appointed Minister for Children and Families, on Thursday to see what we are doing in the Government’s flagship 30 hours of childcare scheme. In the pilot, Matt Biggs and his team have taken a bold initiative and engaged with employers as well as families and childcare suppliers to persuade them to change shifts and work patterns so that the families get the most benefit. The challenge is now to do the same at scale with the main scheme but we are already making great progress with Staffordshire now having one of the highest take-up rates in the region, with almost 4,500 children taking advantage of the funded childcare.

It was also a very pleasant surprise to hear that one of our Families First Colleagues is to be recognised by Staffordshire Police for her part in Operation SHADE, a particularly complex and harrowing Child Sexual Exploitation case which came to a conclusion recently. She and a number of colleagues have worked conscientiously and carefully over many months in some pretty difficult circumstances to ensure that the twin aims of bringing the perpetrators to justice and looking after the victims is achieved. It’s quite humbling to be part of the same organisation.