Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

Making sure we have the right housing for Staffordshire to prosper

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

We are all aware of the importance of growing our economy and attracting good quality jobs to the area and how everyone will benefit from this.

But, equally important to this, is the need to have more homes and in particular a good mix of different types of homes that people want to live in.

Our colleagues in the borough and district councils are already doing well in delivering housing, but we must find a way to support them to speed up the rate that homes are being built and where we want them.   An important part of this is also making sure that the right infrastructure is in place, including new roads, schools, electricity, drainage and broadband supply.

If we don’t have enough houses in the right places, we risk prices rising faster than incomes, young people finding it harder to live where they want and a greater risk of skilled and highly-educated workers draining from Staffordshire.

Over the next few months we will be exploring ideas and proposals which could see the county council working with established house builders to deliver the right type of homes or with the private sector to build houses on land owned by the authority.

We would also look to increase choice by encouraging self-build and more developments from smaller construction companies and ensure any infrastructure is in place.

I will keep you updated on our ideas

Planning for a balanced budget

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

We have a great story to tell here in Staffordshire with a flourishing economy, continuing investment and the creation of more better quality jobs.  We also have incredibly low unemployment, currently better than the regional and national figures, so there’s plenty to be proud of.

But at the same time, you will also have heard me say that local councils continue to face some of the most difficult financial conditions in modern times and because of this we have published our draft budget proposals early.  Over the next few months we will be working with partners, staff and yourselves as we finalise our budget and spending plans for the next year.

Growing demands on caring for our elderly and increased pressures on children’s services remain our biggest challenges. For example, ten years ago we spent £200 million on care, rising this year to our largest ever spend of £315 million –  all being invested to help support the most vulnerable in our communities.

But with increasing costs going out and less money coming in, the current situation is simply unsustainable.  And like managing your household budget, we can’t spend more than we have coming in.  This means we will have to prioritise things to make sure we can help the people in our communities with the most need.

We have been swift to recognise the enormity of the financial challenge and over the last nine years have already made efficiency savings worth around £240 million.

We continue to innovate and do things differently. We will continue to work more closely with partners like the NHS, police and the voluntary sector to help make people’s lives better.

In addition to this, we will also be asking people to do more for themselves and where possible support their neighbours and communities to help find solutions to local issues.

By working together and us all doing our bit, I know we can  continue to build a prosperous and more productive Staffordshire for the years to come which we can all enjoy.  A great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to raise a family.

New medical centre for Burntwood

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Later this month we’ll be showcasing exciting plans for a brand new medical centre in Burntwood on the former Greenwood House Nursing Home site.

The site, on Lichfield Road, will be home to the Darwin Medical Practice and contain 13 new consulting rooms, five treatment rooms and a health education space.  There is also potential for an adjoining pharmacy.

Improving health and wellbeing, and supporting independence for everyone remains a priority for the county council.  Not only is the new centre great news for local residents but it Should also help reduce pressure on local hospitals with purpose-built, modern facilities designed to meet the demands of our ageing population.

Here’s an artist’s impression of what the new centre could look like and on 18 September we’ll be giving people the chance to look through and comment on the proposals.  If you’re interested in the project you can view the plans and meet the team at Burntwood Memorial Institute on Rugeley Road, between 4pm and 7pm.  The plans will also be available online from 18 September at www.staffordshire.gov.uk./greenwoodhouse

Could you foster a child one weekend per month?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll be aware of the important role of our foster families and their work in giving children a loving home.

This month, we’re asking people if they could foster a child for one weekend per month.  It’s known as short break fostering and it involves looking after a child for a short period, usually over the weekend but can also be during school holidays.  It could include looking after a child to give the full-time fosters a break, or providing respite for a child with a disability or supporting adoptive parents.

Like any type of fostering it’s really rewarding and you’ll get access to all the training and support on offer to full-time carers plus a competitive allowance.  It is also a great way of ‘testing the water’ to see if fostering is for you and to grow your experience to maybe foster full-time one day

These are children who really do need your help, so if it’s something you might consider or know of someone who is thinking about it then please get in touch.

Watch out for our special roadshows and information events running across the county over the next few months. You can also find out more at www.shortbreakfostering.info  or by calling 0800 169 2061.

Four years on and superfast broadband hits 96% of premises

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

It’s four years since Kings Bromley and Yoxall became the first villages in the county to ‘go live’ as part of Superfast Staffordshire.  It’s an exciting project and you will have heard about it before.

Run jointly with BT Group and the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, the county council is helping bring download speeds of at least 24 Mbps and above to the majority of homes and businesses across the county.

I’m sure you will all agree that superfast broadband speeds are pretty essential these days for everyone, whether it’s for business or leisure.  In fact, it’s now one of the things people look for when moving house.  Communicating with family members, running our smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa,  streaming music and television are all things we can do because of faster speeds.  And for local businesses faster connections are absolutely vital to compete too.

So far, we’ve enabled around 76,000 households and businesses to connect to superfast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 481,000, which is around 96 per cent of premises, when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector businesses, such as Openreach.  We are also continuing to look at further funding options to try and get the remaining 4% connected.

Local businesses can also benefit too and improve their efficiency through the Government operated £67 Million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. Small and medium sized businesses can apply for  vouchers worth up to £3,000 against the cost of a full fibre connection. This would give them a future proof ultrafast connection of up to 1 gigabit per second.

Groups of residents can also apply for the vouchers of up to £500 where a business is also included. Businesses or group applicants just need to find a supplier to start the process. You can find out more about the scheme by visiting https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/

People can also keep up to speed with the roll-out via the Superfast Staffordshire website: www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk via Twitter @superfaststaffs and Facebook following Superfast Staffordshire.

Exam results, and a bright future in Staffordshire

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

August is in full swing, and for many young people up and down the county, this means a nervous wait for their exam results.  Today (August 16) sees students across Staffordshire receive their A Level results, while next Thursday GCSE students will be the ones anxiously awaiting their grades.

There’s now more choice than ever for further and higher education.  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.

Areas experiencing growth in Staffordshire include advanced manufacturing, construction, and health and social care, meaning that qualifications such as apprenticeships and Higher National Diplomas could be just as important as degrees in these sectors.

Whatever results they get, every young person in the county should be proud of their achievements, and I want to wish those who have had their exam results, and those who are waiting for them, the 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.

And speaking of advanced manufacturing, the plans for the extension to the i54 business park in South Staffordshire have been submitted.

If approved, it would mean one large or several smaller employers could deliver 2,700 jobs on site and generate £600million investment.  The success of i54 South Staffordshire has been outstanding – attracting global leaders in their sectors and thousands of skilled jobs to the county.

Coupled with the latest jobs statistics showing near full employment in Staffordshire, it shows that students getting their A Level and GCSE results certainly have a bright future in the county.

Bridge works finished ahead of schedule

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Over the last six weeks our highways crews have been working seven days a week and additional twilight shifts on week days to complete the major improvement scheme on Burton Bridge.

The strengthening, resurfacing and drainage work was due to be completed before the children returned to school in early September, but I’m pleased to report  that crews have now finished the work, three weeks ahead of schedule.

Our crews really have done an amazing job often working on extremely hot days to get the work completed so quickly.  But motorists, residents, local businesses, local councillors, emergency services and bus operators have also played a huge part and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work, patience and support in helping ensure  this major scheme was completed as smoothly and swiftly as possible.

The improvements are part of a wider £6.1m scheme to safeguard both Burton Bridge and St Peter’s Bridge. Now, thanks to this vital investment the use of both bridges have been safeguarded for at least another generation. This is also fantastic news for everyone in Burton and will be great for the town’s economy.

County’s carers recognised at annual awards

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Young Dignity Champion (Under Age of 21) Winner Daniel West

There are thousands of carers right across the county, always going that extra mile for the people they look after and this month we got the chance to say thank you to them.

Over 200 guests including, young people, family carers, and those working in the care sector gathered for our annual Dignity in Care Awards.

As in previous year’s, we recognised both informal carers like Jayne Clarke for her work in looking after her disabled son, Lyndsey Bowles from Lichfield and young carers of the year  Daniel West and Oliver Durber.

Awards were also presented to formal carers Hayley Clunn from AMG Nursing and Care, Rachel Pender from Davlyn House Residential Home, Ron and Julie Jeffries from Allan House and Oaklea House and Loraine Atherton from RMP Care Ltd.

Once again it was great to see such a mix of people receiving recognition from those working in large carer organisations to the army of informal carers looking after family members and relatives.

I would like to say a huge well done and thanks to all our winners. They should all be very proud of their achievements.

Celebrating completion of highways work for multi-million pound development scheme

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

This month I met with our partners to mark the completion of a major road scheme supporting the exciting Branston Locks development.

I’ve blogged about this before but Branston Locks is a huge project for Burton that will see 400 acres of land immediately west of the A38 developed with 2,500 new homes, a range of community facilities and a 50-acre employment site.

The development also includes a new 1,550 place high school on land nearby – the first in 25 years – and looking to the future a new primary school will also be built. The total investment in the area could be over £800million.

This is great news for the people of the Burton area and an excellent example of how we are working together across the public and private sectors to create new better paid jobs, sustained economic growth and flourishing local communities.

Castle House opens for business

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

This week we’re celebrating the opening of the brand new £15.4 million civic centre Castle House, next to Queens Gardens in the centre of Newcastle.  This is an exciting development which will bring together services from the County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire Police and Aspire Housing’s customer services department.

This is a major investment for the town which will help boost the local economy.  By pulling together all these services under one roof in the centre of town, it will also make life easier for Newcastle’s residents.  At the same time moving out of old buildings will save taxpayers millions of pounds in the long run and help local businesses by concentrating hundreds of workers close to the shops.

The four storey building will also be home to a modern library and register office with the library on the ground and first floors.  As well as thousands of books, the library will have a dedicated children’s area, space for accessing archive materials and the photographic collections of national museums and galleries.

Castle House is a significant development for the town and great news for people in Newcastle.  It’s also the largest investment in the town in recent years.