Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

Welcoming the small business minister to Staffordshire

Friday, January 18th, 2019

I was delighted with the opportunity to meet local business leaders and to welcome Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst MP at this year’s annual meeting of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership.

As I explained to the audience, we should all be extremely proud of how far we’ve come as a county and a partnership, and that we should continue to look forward to the future.

Working together, we will build on our traditions of hard work, innovation, and high-quality products… and we continue to have big ambitions for Staffordshire.

We have recently launched a campaign which sums this up, “Staffordshire Means Jobs and Growth” …. And a major strand of this campaign is that “Staffordshire Means Ambition”… an ambition to raise the living standards of the people of Staffordshire.

To achieve these higher living standards, we need to see even greater investment in the economy and this is encapsulated by our mantra of more and better jobs – something that is becoming a reality for Staffordshire’s residents.

We firmly believe that Staffordshire can be one of the strongest performing economies in the UK, driven by high-tech industries, innovative local firms, and small businesses all supported by the UK’s best connectivity.

I’ve also spoken about our ten-year Economic Growth programme before, which will help us achieve this. With the LEP and our partners, we’ve created thousands of new and better-paid jobs and are well ahead of our target to create 27,000 jobs by 2024.

We’re also at the forefront of delivering £360m of investment across the county – creating the infrastructure to unlock economic growth and bring forward much needed development sites. But we are investing in more than just roads and Superfast Broadband.

Next generation digital communications is high on the agenda, and we will build on our superb rail, road and air connections, which all complement our extensive broadband coverage.

Our mantra of new and better jobs really is becoming a realisation, and by working together we can make it happen.

Green light for i54 South Staffordshire expansion

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019
i54 South Staffordshire planned expansion

Yesterday we had some great news about our proposed extension at the i54 South Staffordshire Business Park which could create another 1,700 jobs and lever in up to £300 million of investment.

The plans which would see an expansion of the site by around a third of its current size were given the green light by South Staffordshire District Council, meaning we can get on with the job of securing funding and getting started with site development.

It’s another important flagship project for us. It will not only benefit the county through the creation of potentially 2,700 more jobs when fully built, but it will also be providing up to £3 million a year in business rates to cover the cost, with the rest being reinvested into funding public services.

It’s good news all round and you can read the full story on the Staffordshire Newsroom here.

Colder weather on the way

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

You may have read that we are due to face some colder weather this weekend, with temperatures expected to drop into the minus figures and maybe some snow flurries on higher ground.

We can’t complain too much, as it’s been fairly mild up to now, but if it does turn colder it usually increases the health risks to vulnerable people. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for your older neighbours, friends and relatives. Make sure they are safe, warm and have enough healthy food in.

And, don’t put off getting the flu vaccination, there’s still time and it’s important you have it. If you have not yet had your flu jab, you still have your chance. The sooner you have it, the better chance you have of avoiding it. Be sure to encourage those who are more susceptible to flu to get their jab.

And while it is very important to look after those who struggle during these winter months, it’s also important to look after yourself. Here are some useful tips from the NHS to keep warm and healthy during the cold weather:

• Keep warm and healthy by keeping rooms heated to at least 18C.

• Have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day. Try and keep active to help you stay warm.

• Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer. When you need to go outside: wear shoes with soles that have good grip and are slip resistant.

• Stay tuned to the weather forecast and plan ahead with supplies.

• If you are eligible make sure you are registered for priority services with your energy and water suppliers.

• Get financial support to improve your home insulation, improve your heating or get help with bills.

For those concerned about travel, our gritting crews remain on stand-by and will be out when needed. You can find out more about our winter operations.

You can also find out when gritters are out by following us on Twitter at @StaffordshireCC.

And finally, spare a thought for the animals who are still outside.

Make a difference in 2019 by volunteering at your local library

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

The New Year is often a time when we reflect on what we have been doing, need to do in the future and a time to think about doing something different. It could be that this year you want to try something new, or perhaps give back to the community.

With this in mind, you might want to consider volunteering in your local library. Not only is it a great way of helping your local community, it’s also a chance to explore your interests and put your experience to good use, meet new people, learn new skills, and all while giving you that sense of giving back.

We all take for granted how libraries are a vital part of every community. Besides being a treasure trove of great literature and resources, they are a safe space for everyone to enjoy. Everyone can benefit from the services our libraries provide.

We already have over 800 volunteers helping out in our libraries, all playing an important role and doing lots of different things. We’re always grateful for their time and support and when I meet them they tell me they enjoy the opportunity and the work they do is incredibly rewarding.

So if you fancy delivering books to some of Staffordshire Libraries housebound customers, volunteering in one of Staffordshire’s 20 Community Managed Libraries, helping to organise community events and activities, or supporting staff in Staffordshire’s County Managed Libraries then there will be an opportunity waiting for you.

All necessary training will be given! Please get in touch or ask about opportunities in your local library.

Looking ahead to 2019 and more major developments

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Underpinning everything we all desire is the creation of more better quality jobs for people. Not only does this usually mean higher wages, allowing families to afford and enjoy a better quality of life but it also has a knock on effect on our overall economy, as people spend their money with local businesses.

More evidence of this is the continuing trend of almost full employment we’ve seen throughout 2018 which I have blogged about before. 2018 has been a busy year and the work the County Council does to create the right conditions to attract new business and help existing ones thrive continues.

This involves continuous investment in infrastructure, like major road improvements such as the A50 at Uttoxeter. Investment in key foundations like superfast broadband, housing, schools and more business parks. There’s lots more to be excited about too in 2019 with even more major projects scheduled.

We have the exciting expansion of i54 South Staffordshire which will create an additional 1,700 jobs while the Four Ashes business park is at full occupancy.

In Stafford, Redhill Business Park, also at full occupancy with expanding companies and firms such as Trebor building new premises, is helping to safeguard and create thousands of more jobs over the next decade.

This year will also see the start of construction of the Stafford Western Access Route and Lichfield Southern Bypass. Work on a major £15m highways improvement project in Cannock for a new £160m McArthurGlen Designer Outlet is already underway which I have blogged about before here.

As a county council we have a good story to tell. We’re opening doors for business to thrive and grow. We’re attracting new investment to the county and we are making Staffordshire right for business to improve the lives of everyone living here.

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy and healthy 2019.

This year brings to an end the culmination of a series of projects events and exhibitions to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the Great War

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

Corporal with ventriloquists dummy

A Corporal from South Staffordshire Regiment with ventriloquists dummy

One such project involved getting the Jake Whitehouse collection online which is now available for all to see at www.jakewhitehouse.org.uk. It’s a unique collection featuring over 1,600 postcards, photographs and objects relating to the county’s role in the Great War.

Much of the collection relates to the training camps on Cannock Chase where over 500,000 men were trained before joining troops on the Western Front. It details the stories of the thousands of British and New Zealand servicemen who trained there. Over 300 of these original postcards show soldiers and civilian workers working, training, and at leisure, while stories of German prisoners of war are also there to be explored.

The collection belonged to local and military historian and author of ‘A Town for Four Winters’, Jake Whitehouse, who sadly passed away last year. Thanks to his wife Gill who gave us permission to digitalise the collection, it’s now available for all to see. You can also watch a quick video here:

Over the four years our archives service have made several interesting discoveries relating to the Great War, none more so than the letter written by General Congreves about The 1916 Christmas Day Truce and football match between German and British soldiers.  The letter was discovered just in time for the 100th anniversary of the story and is still available to view in the archives service.

Some of my own personal memorabilia have also helped shine a light on what life was like on the home front during the war. Amongst these are Minutes of a meeting in January 2016 of the Rocester branch of the War Agriculture Committee.

What is fascinating is that until conscription in 1916 there was no Government intervention in the balance of recruitment, so counties like Staffordshire, where thousands signed up, suddenly had to adapt to manpower shortages.

The document I have details the gathering of local farmers who met in the Red Lion Hotel, and their concerns about this shortage of labour for farm work as men were sent off to fight. How children could be taught to milk cows and a preoccupation with food shortages was also highlighted in the documents.

You can read more about our Great War commemorations at http://www.staffordshiregreatwar.com

Good year for our economy as jobseeker figures remain below national average

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

For those of you who keep a close eye on our employment figures, I’m pleased to report that it’s more good news for Staffordshire this month.

End of year figures show that the county continues to have near full employment with  the latest statistics showing that just 1.3 per cent of the local population are claiming out of work benefits. Once again, this is lower than both regional (2.9 per cent) and national (2.3 per cent) averages. We’ve been outperforming our neighbours throughout most of the year which is encouraging news.

It’s been a pretty good year, and with even more developments scheduled for 2019, we have many fresh opportunities coming for better paid jobs to be excited about.  We have the extension of i54 South Staffordshire, beginning of construction of the Stafford Western Access Route and Lichfield Southern Bypass.

These, alongside full occupancy at sites like Four Ashes and Redhill are all projects that will support even more better paid, higher skilled jobs for people in Staffordshire.

Christmas in Care

Friday, December 7th, 2018

For most children their Christmas lists will consist of the latest gadgets, games and toys. But for many children in care, all they’ll be asking for this year is a loving family.

This is where foster families can help by providing a stable and supportive family environment which is something that many of our vulnerable young people in care have never had. It’s also why we have  launched two new campaigns in the run up to Christmas to help recruit more foster carers.

We know that in most cases, foster families can give children in care the best chance of a happy life.  And, with record numbers of children being placed in care, it’s vital that we have a strong network of foster families to give them the love they need.

The first campaign, ’12 Myths of Fostering’ is all about busting some of the most commonly reported myths about fostering. We know from talking to potential foster carers that there are a lot of misconceptions about who can and cannot foster, and this campaign is all about exploring those myths and debunking them. People who have considered fostering, but ruled themselves out for one reason or another should definitely watch the 12 Myths of Fostering videos here.  We’re releasing one each day in the run up to Christmas.

Our second campaign is all about recruiting Resilience Foster Carers. This is a specialist type of fostering, and is for people with experience in dealing with teenagers with emotional and behavioural difficulties. It could include people who have worked in residential care, ex-police officers, prison officers or people who work in similar professions. There is a real shortage of these types of foster carers, so it’s vital that we reach out to try and find them.  If you think it’s something you could do or know someone who might be suitable, you can read more about it here: https://bit.ly/2ByMaP2

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated, you can’t cross a chasm with two small leaps. You could bring joy to a vulnerable young child by giving them a loving family, and  a feeling of fulfilment to yourself.

 

Celebrating the best of the best in our annual tourism awards

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Each year we recognise the contributions of our tourism businesses with the Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards and this year was no different.

This year’s ceremony took place on Thursday at the brand new £8m Aspects Conference Centre at the National Memorial Arboretum and was hosted by Joanne Malin, who you may know from BBC Midlands Today.

More than 40 attractions, activities, and accommodation businesses entered, and I would like to say a huge well done to everyone, including a special congratulations to the winners.  Amongst them were Drayton Manor Park, who picked up 2 awards, Middleport Pottery, The Dorothy Clive Garden, Swinfen Hall Hotel and the NMA themselves.  Also, and on my patch, well done to Heywood Hall and Lower Micklin Touring Park both in Denstone who also picked up awards.

Tourism is a really important sector for the county and our local tourism businesses continue to do us proud and a great job, bringing in almost £2bn each year and sustaining tens of thousands of jobs.  So once again, thank you and well done.

People holding up trophies

Winners of the 2018 Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards with their trophies

New approach to support young people with mental health issues

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

We had a busy cabinet meeting this week and one of the important decisions we made was to agree a new approach to helping children and young people with mental health issues.

This is not only about promoting good mental health, but also tackling the stigma around mental illness and improving attitudes towards it. A lot of young people may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their mental health, but we want them to know that they shouldn’t feel that shame, and that there’s people who understand what they are going through and can help them.

It’s a subject that’s incredibly important to us all and it’s vital that children get the help when they need it. That’s why we have joined forces with our local Clinical Commissioning Groups to ensure we can support them through any tough times they go through.

Around 40% of all young people experience at least one mental health issue by the age of 16. With 225,000 children and young people living in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, this means around 90,000 will experience an issue with their emotional health and wellbeing at some stage.

These are figures that cannot be ignored, which is why we are so committed to ensuring that young people get the help that they need.

I will keep you posted on the progress of the new approach.