National Adoption Week

This week it’s National Adoption Week and with almost seven out of 10 children waiting for adoptive families from sibling groups, there’s a real need to help find them loving homes.

We know from experience that in most cases keeping brothers and sisters together is in their best interests rather than the experience of further stress caused by being separated from each other.

In this latest campaign, we are  now asking people to #supportadoption and we are particularly looking for adoptive families who would be willing to adopt sibling groups.  We have sibling groups of two, three and more children looking for a forever family home together, so if you’re thinking of starting, extending  or completing a family then maybe adoption is for you.  And, while siblings remains the focus of our campaign, we are also  looking  for  potential families for children of all ages, those with  additional needs and children with ethnic minority backgrounds.

Our Adoption Service offers an excellent package of support and training and I would encourage people to get along to one of our campaign roadshows or information events to find out more. If people can’t make any of the events  they can also visit www.Staffordshire.gov.uk/adoption or call 0800 169 2061.

 

And now to something close to all our hearts, good food and drink

This Friday some of the best food & drink businesses from across the county will go head-to-head at the Taste of Staffordshire GOOD FOOD AWARDS. Forty of the best restaurants, pubs, tea rooms and other food & drink businesses from across the county are all in the running for awards at the ceremony being held at Lichfield Cathedral.

We are incredibly lucky here in Staffordshire  to have such a wide range of really wonderful, high quality  food and drink businesses and our awards are a great way of celebrating this.

These are all independently run establishments going above and beyond to deliver the highest quality of locally produced food and drink and the best possible service for their customers.  The awards are a great opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve for their hard work and determination to be the best in the business.

Any Staffordshire food & drink business with a minimum four-star Food Hygiene Rating (Rate My Place or equivalent) can apply for the Taste of Staffordshire Quality Marque.  Businesses can find out more by clicking this link.

And, good luck to everyone shortlisted for an award.

Unlocking the power of the crowd

Supporting communities to be at the heart of local initiatives is the future of local government, and the way that we’ll continue to improve the lives of people in Staffordshire.

From our network of community managed libraries, providing tailored local services, to changes to local children’s support which is already improving early education, the power of social action is clear to see.

We also know that there are hundreds of groups out there with great practical ideas to help their community, but need support to get them off the ground.  That’s why we’re really pleased to be launching our Crowdfund Staffordshire project. Anyone can use it to raise funds for projects that benefit the local community.  And, advice is also available for groups to make sure their fundraising campaign is a success.  It’s an easy way for groups to showcase their projects to the thousands of people who regularly donate to good causes online.  We’ve already spoken to some of our partners and you can listen to their thoughts in this short video.

We are also setting aside £50,000 for projects that help to support the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children and families.   Projects could be eligible for up to £5,000 from the fund if the community also support it.

We want Staffordshire to be a great place to live, with strong and resilient communities that work for everyone, and this is just one of the ways that we’re helping community’s to take the lead locally.

You can get crowdfunding today at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/funds/crowdfund-Staffordshire

Appeal underway to keep Leekfrith Torcs in Staffordshire

Back in February, people worldwide were amazed at the story of how two friends struck gold in a field in Leek.  But, this isn’t the first time the mention of treasure and a Staffordshire field

Torcs discovered in Staffordshire

have made the headlines – with the Staffordshire Hoard springing to mind!

The four intricate artefacts that make up the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs were an amazing find and are believed to be the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever discovered in Britain.  I blogged about this earlier in the year at Staffordshire Strikes Gold again and hits the national headlines

Now, a fundraising campaign has been launched to raise £325,000 to save for the nation the ancient jewellery.

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, and its friends organisation are leading the campaign and already have a track record in saving unparalleled artefacts and world-leading treasures. These include the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo Saxon treasure ever discovered, and the Wedgwood First Day’s Vase, made by Josiah Wedgwood himself on the opening day of his Etruria pottery works in 1769.

We only have until 5 December 2017 to raise the money and I am urging residents, businesses and organisations to step forward and show their support.  People can show their support and make a donation here.

You can also watch interviews with the two metal-detectorists who made the discovery here.

People get their first glimpse of plans for new Staffordshire History Centre

 

This month we are giving people a sneak preview of our plans  for the exciting new Staffordshire History Centre at a series of open days.

I have blogged about this before when we appointed the architects and design team but now it seems much more real as we can all see exactly what the new centre is going to look like.

The new Heritage Lottery funded £4m centre would be located on Eastgate Street in Stafford and would hold our historical records. It would provide a bright, welcoming space for visitors and exhibitions with browsing areas creating an easy entry point to the archives.

The plans, which are going  down very well include artist’s impressions and designs, ideas for future exhibitions and even a 3D model which helps show how the new centre would link into the William Salt Library.  People also liked the idea of bringing our collections together in one place and liked our ideas for the kinds of exhibitions that would be on display and going out into local communities.

You’ll also find more details on the project or how to sign up to the new e-newsletter at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/archives/ourvision

A busy week for parents with children back at school

It’s September again and this week sees children across the country heading back to school for the new term after the summer break. And for some parents and families, it could also see teenagers off to college, university or to do an apprenticeship and leaving home for the first time.

The county council is working hard to continuously improve results and give our children and young people the best schooling experience we can, and we will continue to work with our partners to support our schools to improve even further.

Our teachers and other school staff work exceptionally hard to help pupils achieve strong academic results. For this September start, 9 out of 10 parents in Staffordshire were also offered their first choice primary school, and we are continuing to create more school places to cope with the rise in pupil numbers. Over the last year we’ve created nearly 1,500 more school places in both primary and secondary schools in readiness for the new school year.

This week also saw the national roll out of 30 funded hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds available for working parents.  It’s great news for eligible families, it puts more money in their pockets by either saving on fees, or allowing a parent to go out to work, or it simply makes a massive improvement to their work-life balance.

And to start the new term, 15 more schools will benefit from our “20 is Plenty” scheme. These flashing signs help keep children safe on the way to and from school by encouraging motorists to slow down when near schools.

So, with our roads amongst the safest in the country and recent evidence suggesting that a brisk ten minute walk is good for our health, it’s a great opportunity, this term  to leave the car at home and walk to school with the children.

The new county council Cabinet

In a recent blog post, I announced the appointment of County Councillor Alan White as the county council’s new Deputy Leader, after Ian Parry stepped down from the Cabinet last month,

Following on from this, I am now pleased to announce two new appointments to the county council’s Cabinet.  Mike Sutherland, who represents Etchinghill and Heath, takes up the role of Cabinet Member for Finance and Gill Burnett, who represents Kidsgrove, takes over from Mike as Cabinet Support Member for Adult Safeguarding.

I am delighted that both Mike and Gill are taking up these two important roles and although they are both new to the county council they bring with them a wealth of experience in local politics.  With a growing ageing population funding of social care, proactively managing the financial challenges and of course safeguarding the most vulnerable in our communities continue to be key priorities for the council.

The full cabinet membership now is:

Philip Atkins – Leader of the Council. Philip will also take on responsibility for Corporate Matters

Alan White – Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing

Gill Heath – Cabinet Member for Communities

Mark Deaville – Cabinet Member for Commercial

Mike Sutherland – Cabinet Member for Finance

Mark Sutton – Cabinet Member for Children and Young People

Mark Winnington – Cabinet Member for Economic Growth

Gill Burnett – Cabinet Support Member for Adult Safeguarding

Helen Fisher – Cabinet Support Member for Highways and Transport

Philip White – Cabinet Support Member for Learning and Employability

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After all the stress of school exams in July, we are now in the midst of exam results season.  Last week saw students across the county receive their A Level results, allowing them to make important decisions about their future career.  There is now more choice than ever for education after A-Levels, whether it’s through university, college or apprenticeships.  We know not everyone is suited to pursuing an academic path, so it’s important they get the right advice and guidance to make sure the path they take is the right one for them.

Every young person in the county should be proud of their achievements, and I want to wish those who received their A Level results last week every success in the future, whatever path they take.  Similarly, I would like to wish those received their GCSE results this Thursday (August 24) the very best of luck.

The county council’s website has a wealth of information about choosing the right path after A-Levels.  Visit www.staffordshire.gov.uk/learningroutes to learn more.

UK Corporate Games to return to the county

Sports and leisure has always played an important role in society and a strong offer has the ability to generate visitors, jobs and prosperity for an area. Not to mention the well-documented benefits of healthy and active lifestyles for local communities.

That’s why in recent years we have been actively pursuing a number of high profile sporting events like IRONMAN, Women’s Tour cycling and the UK Corporate Games that all help promote the county to a global audience.

Built on the highly successful 2015 UK Corporate Games held in the area, we have deservingly been chosen to host the games again next year, beating off stiff competition from other major UK cities.   The last Games in 2015 attracted not only local firms but some of the UK’s top companies.

Over 5,000 competitors  took part in the long weekend of sports and leisure helping generate an estimated £3m for the local economy. Just as important we got the chance to showcase the areas inward investment potential to top company executives to help bring jobs to the county.  I would certainly encourage our Staffordshire based businesses of all sizes to get involved. 

Any companies interested in taking part in the games which will take place from 21 – 24 June 2018 are welcome to a special celebration launch event on 4 October at Keele Hall from 6.30pm. Companies can register or find out more at www.corporate-games.comYou can also watch a 2018 UK Corporate Games video here.

New Deputy Leader for the Council

As some of you may already be aware, Ian Parry took the decision to step down from the Cabinet and Deputy Leader in July to focus on a new role with the Centre for Public Scrutiny.  Those of you who know Ian, firstly in his role as a county councillor for the Stone Rural area and then as Cabinet member for Finance and Corporate Matters, will have witnessed first-hand his commitment and determination in making the council a stronger organisation.  I would like to thank Ian personally for the great contribution he has made during his time in both opposition and in our Cabinet and I am sure people will join me in wishing him well in  his new role.

Replacing Ian as Deputy Leader, is Alan White who was elected by his fellows at a meeting of the Conservative group this week.  Alan is the Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing and during his time on Cabinet, has brought great clarity and vision to the hugely complex and challenging area of health and social care and before that as Chairman of Corporate Review.

Alan possesses great determination to help improve the lives of people in Staffordshire and I have no doubt he will bring this drive and enthusiasm to his new role.  Alan, who represents Lichfield Rural East, will continue to lead on health and social care as part of his new role.  I’m sure people will join me in welcoming him to the new role.

Supporting people living with dementia and those caring for them

Dementia is a subject that many of us don’t talk about, but is something that can have a devastating impact on not only individuals, but on their family and friends too.

In Staffordshire the good news is we have an increasing numbers of an older population. We predict that the total number of people aged 65 and over with dementia will rise from around 11,100 in 2016 to 17,400 in 2030, an increase of 57%.  These are huge numbers and why we are doing everything we can to ensure people living with dementia and their carers have access to the support they need in their local community.

These plans include the construction of a brand new Dementia Centre of Excellence in Burton, and on Friday I was at the ground breaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction.  The Centre will enable us to give people coping with dementia a better quality of life, enable them to lead fulfilling, independent lives for as long as possible and provide continued support as their condition changes.

This centre, and others like it, will mean that we are ready to meet the challenges that dementia poses and support individuals, their families and the wider community.  Added to this, we want to ensure local people have more of an understanding of the condition, so we can create communities that actively support those living with dementia. This means ‘People will be Helping People’ to live independent lives and be part of an active and supporting community