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

Exciting times for our county town

You will have heard me talking about growing the county’s economy before, attracting more better paid jobs that put more money into people’s pockets to spend in our town centres in their leisure time remains a key priority for the county council.

Take Stafford as an example.  Over the years we have seen huge development in the town such as the new £100m Riverside Shopping Centre and the continuous development at Redhill Business Park which now has around half a million square foot of space for businesses.  Both projects are delivering more job opportunities.  We’ve also seen the expansion of the army barracks also completed with hundreds of new homes either having been built or in the pipeline and potential for a new housing estate at the former Police HQ.

There is more to do however to improve the town and this month saw the announcement of The Stafford Gateway Masterplan., This lays the plans to develop land near the railway station and could see the development of 650 apartments, 150 houses, a new hotel and a 1,400 space multi storey carpark.

Key to this is the creation of the Stafford Western Access Route which will link the A518 Newport Road and the A34 Foregate Street. This will not only enable the ambitious Gateway project but will also ease congestion in the town centre, particularly around the railway station as we prepare for Javelin trains using the HS2 connection.  Work to improve the junctions at Foregate Street was completed last month and the next phase will see us assembling the required land along the route.

It really is an exciting and changing time for Stafford with such great opportunities to grow our local economy and make life better for people working and living here.

New bridge successfully installed over A50

Over the weekend we saw the successful installation of a new bridge on the A50 near Uttoxeter as part of wider plans to improve transport links, support business and unlock land for new housing and economic growth.

The operation to place six steel beams, each 47 metres long and weighing 45 tonnes apiece started at 8pm on Friday night and was completed for the Monday morning rush hour.  This was no mean feat and as a major piece of work It’s a credit to everyone involved how quickly, safely and smoothly the work went.

The A50 is the most important transport link between the West and East Midlands. The planned improvements will not only benefit people in Uttoxeter but also major employers and their employees, making journeys  between Staffordshire and Derbyshire quicker, easier and safer.  Managing to condense the necessary work into just one weekend did help to minimise inconvenience for people and I would like to thank everyone for their patients.

You can read more about the operation on the Staffordshire Newsroom, as well as being able to watch a Time lapse video of the installation.

 

Planning for new Staffordshire History Centre moves ahead

Artists Impressions of Staffordshire History Centre

You will have heard me speak about our plans for a new Staffordshire History Centre before and It’s exciting to see the project moving ahead with partners and design team now all on-board.

The new £4m centre will be in Stafford, between Eastgate Street and North Walls and will incorporate both the existing Records Office and the William Salt Library building.  Home to some of our most important historical records and collections, the centre  will also have modern community exhibition space and reading and research rooms along with extra storage space.  The project is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and we hope that work could start as early as April 2019.

The project team have already been out talking to local history groups, partners, young people and teachers all sharing their ideas to help develop an exciting programme of activities.  We do hope to be in a position to share more detailed plans with the public later in the autumn.  In the meantime you can hear what the team have to say on the Video link: Excitement builds as planning for new Staffordshire History Centre moves ahead

If you are interested in following the progress you can keep up to date with the project at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/archives/ourvision and sign up for a new e-newsletter.

 

 

Celebrating Armed Forces Day

Staffordshire County Council Chairmen Michael Greatorex

Armed Forces Day is this Saturday (24 June) and as a big supporter of the forces we all hope people will join the county council in showing our support for the brave men and women who make up our Armed Forces community.  From currently serving troops at home and abroad, to service families, veterans and cadets.

We will be proudly flying the Armed Forces flag from the top of Shire Hall to show our support and pay tribute for their hard work, dedication and efforts to keep us safe in the UK and across the globe.  The #SaluteOurForces campaign on Twitter is another great way of showing your support and I would encourage people to join in.

There will be lots of activities taking place right across the country including at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, near Lichfield.  This is a wonderful attraction and we’re incredibly lucky and proud to have it here in Staffordshire.  With flypasts, a field gun display, military band and the RAF Falcons Parachute Display team and adventure activities, There’s something for all the family and if you have never been, it’s well worth a visit.  It’s also ten years since the dedication of the famous Armed Forces Memorial that remembers those forces who died in service.

Staffordshire has strong connections with the county’s Armed Forces and is home to three Signal Regiments in Stafford, the Defence Medical Services in Whittington, as well as a large number of Reserve units and Cadets.  And with sites such as the National Memorial Arboretum, Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire continues to play an important role in both supporting and honouring our Armed Forces.

Click here to find out more about the National memorial Arboretum and visit

Click here to find out about events happening in your area.

Celebrating three years of Superfast Staffordshire project

Superfast broadband is recognized as the next essential utility for everyone, whether it’s for business, schools, or leisure and when we don’t have good access we miss it.

You should be already aware of our ground breaking Superfast Staffordshire project, working with BT and BDUK, that’s delivering high speed fibre broadband to homes and businesses across the county.  We’re now celebrating the three year anniversary of the project launch which has been followed by a hugely successful programme. When complete, together with commercial roll-out, 96 per cent of properties will be able to access fast broadband by the end of 2018.  To date we’ve enable connection to over 70,000 properties across the county.

Having this kind of speed on this kind of scale is great news and is cutting edge technology that will have a huge impact on our county. This will be some of the fastest internet tech available to nearly every house and business in Staffordshire, making us one of the best connected counties in the country.

Right from the start of this project we have always said we would do all we could to reach the final four per cent in the most remote areas and now the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund initiative is helping us do this. This additional funding allows the project to co-invest along with local communities.  £400,000 has been set aside to help local eligible communities get connected with additional funding towards engineering work coming from Openreach, BT’s local network business.

Stafford borough has been the first area to benefit from this with three communities – Cotwalton, Brookside Business Park near Stone and Cold Norton. Cotwalton will have the necessary upgrade work completed in the next few weeks. Cold Norton is the most recent addition to the project with around 50 premises, including the recently opened Norton Bridge Golf Club.

I firmly believe that access to superfast broadband is now an essential utility service. It helps improve quality of life for people and means businesses can thrive. That is why connecting communities remains a priority for us

Celebrating Volunteers’ Week

VIDEO: How ‘Leek Food Co-op’ is Helping people lead healthier and happier lives

Throughout this week we have been recognising and celebrating the contributions of the thousands of volunteers helping out across the county to make Staffordshire a great place to live.

We will all know people who work tirelessly, giving up their time working with voluntary organisations, groups and charities to help improve the lives of others.  Well, National Volunteers’ Week, is when we put these selfless individuals in the spotlight and thank them for the great work they do.

Whether it’s helping out at a local sports group, youth club, library or children’s centre, or simply supporting those people in communities that are  most in need –  elderly, young people,  and children and families it all makes an amazing difference.

There are some amazing examples happening right across the county, such as the ‘Leek Food Co-op’  project which is helping people live healthier lives by providing families with bags of fresh fruit and veg.  We have over 800 people volunteering in our libraries and in our children’s centre’s volunteers are helping support some of the most vulnerable families in our communities.  There are also over 8,000 people volunteering in youth groups, of which over 1,500 are young people aged under 18 which is very encouraging to see.

But volunteering is not only great for those receiving the help, it can also greatly benefit the people who give up their time too. Whether it is learning new skills, keeping active, improving mental health and wellbeing, or simply meeting new people, volunteering can have real benefits.

There are lots of volunteering opportunities available and we are working closely with our partners in the sector to make sure volunteers get the support they need.  Anyone interested in getting started with volunteering and exploring flexible opportunities that suit their lifestyle can visit www.staffordshire.gov.uk/volunteering

Remembering the Battle of Messines and its Staffordshire connections 100 years on

Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines

On 7 June 1917 Allied troops were fighting their way into the village of Messines in Belgium in one of the most successful offensives of WWI.  But many people may not be aware of the close connections to Staffordshire and the vital role of the two military training camps on Cannock Chase during the Great War.

It was here that over half a million troops from across the UK and abroad were trained for fighting on the Western Front. You can still see the lines of practice trenches, the railway, remains of the parade ground and hut bases, and a Great War Hut next to the Marquis Drive Visitors Centre. Today, they survive as some of the most complete Great War archaeological sites in the country.

men from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were also based at the training camps where they built a scaled model of part of the battlefield at Messines which was used to train troops about battle tactics and skills like map reading.  We’re incredibly proud and lucky to have such an important piece of history on Cannock Chase which is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country. The model was excavated and recorded by archaeologists in 2013.  The 100th anniversary of the battle is 7 to 14 June and you can watch a video with Steve Dean, our county archaeologist as he explains the connections.  Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines.

Anyone interested in Staffordshire’s role during the Great War or Cannock Chase’s wider history can also come along to our free commemoration event on the weekend of 24th and 25th June.  You’ll get the chance to experience a WWI field hospital, take a tour of the Great War hut and watch films of the time in an authentic period cinema. There’s a full sized replica SE5A Fighter Plane too and the Birmingham Pals will demonstrate mining techniques and infantry training methods from the period.

We do have a fascinating history in Staffordshire and If you can’t make the event and are interested in finding out more about our WWI connections, there’s lots of stories at www.staffordshiregreatwar.com.