Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

Showcasing county’s investment potential at global event

Monday, March 18th, 2019
Midlands UK pavilion

Last week our investment team Make It Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire were flying the flag for the region on the global stage at the MIPIM conference and exhibition in Cannes in France.

This is Europe’s largest exhibition and conference for property professionals and international investors. It’s an important event for us and provides a marketplace for UK and international investors to meet, discuss projects and opportunities, and do business.

Being supported and sponsored by leading Staffordshire firms who also attended, the team have been busy promoting Staffordshire as the ideal place for jobs, growth and investment opportunities. Developments such as the Keele Growth Corridor, the Stafford Station Gateway project, Rugeley Power Station redevelopment, and the i54 South Staffordshire western extension are some of the projects being showcased.

Our central location in the heart of the country still means we’re ideally placed to invest, do business, live, work, and we have a very impressive case to make to international investors.

It is vital we continue to attract new investment to the area and promote growth opportunities so we can create more better paid jobs for local people.

A ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for our children’s social services

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

This week our Children’s Social Services received some great news with Ofsted confirming a rating of good following their inspection of the service in February. 

This is an incredibly important area of work for the County Council and being rated as ‘Good’ is testament to the hard work of the teams involved. It means that vulnerable children in the county continue to be well looked after. We are also one of only three local authorities in the West Midlands to achieve this rating which is another reason to be very proud of the work our children social workers do.

The report highlights many areas of good practice, including a reduction in caseloads for social workers, mature partnership working and the quality of an experienced workforce. You can never be too good in this area of work and there are of course some areas for improvement which we continue to work on too, including developing better systems for helping those who go missing repeatedly, and improving support for older care leavers.

Overall we are pleased with the rating and the progress made to keep children safe but we continue to lobby Government for a national, sustainable solution to how we continue to fund children’s care.

You can read the full story here on our newsroom.

Ten weeks to go

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

A few weeks ago I asked readers to put the date of Wednesday 1 May in their diary.

Some people will already be aware of this annual celebration but for those that aren’t, it’s Staffordshire Day and it’s our day to tell the world what a great place Staffordshire is.

This is our forth Staffordshire Day and it’s all about being proud of where we live while promoting our great county and attracting more visitors.

Our theme this year is ‘Made in Staffordshire’ and we’ll be celebrating all the great stuff made here including our world famous pottery heritage.

We’re also having the Great Staffordshire Day Quiz, Staffordshire Mug Shots and the World’s Biggest Oatcake morning back again this year.

Lots of our tourist attractions will also be offering special offers on the day and our libraries will be joining in the fun with a range of arts and crafts activities.

In a previous celebration over 60,000 people took part in activities and it generated over £1m for the local economy. We were also trending on Twitter last time too which was great.

Today is exactly 10 weeks to the day itself so it’s a good time to start thinking about what you’ll be doing. You can keep up to date with events and activities at www.enjoystaffordshire.com/staffsday

Approving a balanced budget

Friday, February 15th, 2019

Thursday saw our first Full Council meeting of 2019, and it was quite an important one as we approved our budget for the next financial year.

As I’ve written about many times before, we face real challenges as a county council with the rising costs in adult social care and children’s services. But, after taking early, decisive action to close a £35m forecasted shortfall over the next year we’ve managed to deliver a balanced budget.

Right from the start we have been honest with residents about the scale of the challenge and the difficult decisions we have faced and will continue to face. 

We have also listened to people’s concerns and responded where possible including: Continuing to fund the school crossing patrol service, keeping all-day concessionary travel for disabled people and providing funding transition for the community and voluntary sector.

As well as lobbying Government and getting some additional money for highways and social care, we also managed to secure additional funding by successfully bidding to be part of a national business rates pilot scheme.

While we can no longer do or fund everything we would like to, we remain focused on supporting the most vulnerable in our communities and supporting people to find their own local alternative and affordable options.

Council tax will rise by 2.95 per cent this year, less than 10p per day more for a Band D property and still the third lowest county council tax in the country.

We continue to have a good story to tell here in Staffordshire. With near full employment at 1.3% seeking work, the average full time weekly gross wage increasing to £551 per week, more job creation and 96 per cent broadband coverage, Staffordshire remains a fantastic and affordable place to live.

Launch of our Dignity in Care Awards

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019
Here’s last years Dignity in Care award winners

I think everyone would agree that having the highest levels of dignity and respect in care is something that we would all want to see.

To help us achieve this, we’re very proud to be launching our 2019 Dignity in Care awards and we are inviting people to nominate carers, work colleagues, friends and family members.

It’s our fifth awards and they continue to be a great celebration of the thousands of wonderful carers across the county who make a real difference every day. You will probably know someone who always goes that extra mile for those they care for.

This year there are seven award categories and we have simplified the nomination process which is easy and quick to do. Awards include; Dignity Champion, Leadership Award, Young Dignity Champion and Informal Carer.

So, it’s for those working in care, care companies, those providing informal care to a relative or family member and those who work in a voluntary capacity across Staffordshire.

You can nominate online here and nominating is easy. The closing date for nominations is 30 April 2019 and shortlisted nominees will be invited to a special ceremony on 10 July at Newcastle under Lyme College.

The awards are also running alongside a major recruitment campaign to encourage more people to join the adult social care sector. People can find out more at http://www.everydayisdifferent.com

Date for your diary – Wednesday 1 May 2019!

Friday, February 1st, 2019

In my earlier blog post I spoke about our tourism economy, how well it’s doing and why it’s so important for Staffordshire and people living here.

One of the things we are doing to encourage even more visitors to the county and to show how proud we are of Staffordshire is by hosting ‘Staffordshire Day’.

May 1st is now the day we celebrate everything that’s great about our county and is a very special day for us. We celebrate the anniversary of our most famous son, Josiah Wedgwood, who set up his pottery company in 1759 and helped to transform Staffordshire into the centre of the world’s ceramics industry during the Industrial Revolution.

This will be our fourth celebration and our theme this time round is ‘Made in Staffordshire’. Not only will we be celebrating our industrial heritage, including Wedgwood’s 260th anniversary, we’ll also be celebrating our unique culture, history and amazing places to visit.

It’s also just ten years in July since The Staffordshire Hoard was discovered, the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold ever found, opening a window on the life of England in the 7th century and the world of the warrior elite.

Alongside a whole range of activities, events and special offers at many of our attractions, once again, Staffordshire Day gives us the chance to tell the world about what a wonderful place it really is.

Last year we were trending on Twitter too with #StaffordshireDay, which was great.

Let’s not keep it a secret. Tell your friends what a brilliant place Staffordshire is and make a point this year to visit some of our wonderful treasures and be sure to join in the Staffordshire Day celebrations.

Latest tourism figures show the sector is booming

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019
The Roaches, Staffordshire

The start of the year is traditionally one of the busiest times for travel companies as the UK’s tourism sector continues to do very well with record numbers of visitors continuing to visit England.

But the tourism sector is also really important for us here in Staffordshire and our latest tourism figures published this week make good reading. Not only is the sector now worth £1.8bn, up from £1.7bn in the previous year but it supports almost 32,000 jobs for local people. It’s now our fourth largest employment sector.

We have also seen a steady increase in the number of staycations, where day-trippers and overnight visitors come to the county which is something we are working hard with our partners to promote.

This also helps keep local businesses busy which is good for our economy. Staffordshire has way too much to offer just for one day and that’s why we are promoting Staffordshire as a great short break destination.

So whether it’s our thrilling theme parks you love, captivating countryside or eye-opening history and heritage, we have it all. And, with the February half term holidays coming up soon, there’s a perfect opportunity to get out and explore it.

You can see what’s available on the Enjoy Staffordshire website.

More community managed libraries

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of our work to ensure that our libraries are fit for the future and are affordable. Part of this work has involved encouraging communities to become more involved with their local library or even managing them.

The approach has been a huge success and following our last round of applications, an additional five libraries will become community managed. These agreements will bring the number of community managed libraries in Staffordshire to 27.

It is an exciting time and we are seeing a broad range of organisations getting involved, including local bodies, community groups, a church, an NHS Trust and even a Rotary Club. We are also seeing all sorts of new services develop at Community Managed Libraries, such as medical drop-in centres, business start-up advice and baby massage classes.

One of the advantages of this approach is that decisions can be taken at a local level, making our libraries more responsive to community need. In the new way of working, community groups deliver the statutory library service and have access to the county’s stock and IT network, with support and guidance from officers, while the council remains responsible for agreed utility and maintenance costs.

The successful applicants are:

  • Cheadle Library: The Cheadle Community Information and Resource Group;
  • Cheslyn Hay Library: The Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix;
  • Clayton Library: Business Enterprise Support Ltd;
  • Eccleshall Library: The Rotary Club of Eccleshall Mercia;
  • Penkridge Library: Penkridge Parish Council.

And remember, almost all our libraries have opportunities to volunteer in them and you can find out more in my last blog post here or at the Libraries Volunteer website.

The Libraries and Arts Service also have their own Blog which provides monthly updates of activities in Community Managed Libraries and also volunteering in County Council Managed libraries. The link is here http://scchost.org.uk/ccblog/

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.