Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

Looking ahead to commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018
NMA Armed Forces Memorial

The National Memorial Arboretum Armed Forces Memorial

With names on war memorials in all of our towns and villages, many with relatives living today, Staffordshire continues its long history of involvement, reconciliation and a national focus for remembrance.

This Sunday we will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, when the nation will unite to remember the guns falling silent following the end of the First World War.

I’ve blogged about Staffordshire’s many connections with the Great War many times before and the role the county played both in training troops and how the home front contributed to winning the war.

Alongside the WWI training camps on Cannock Chase where over 500,000 men were trained and our many countywide war memorials and gardens, we are also incredibly proud to be the home of the National Memorial Arboretum.

Since the first trees were planted 21 years ago, the site which now provides a focal point for the nation’s commemorations has now become a world-class centre of remembrance.  It really is an inspirational and moving place to visit and both the candlelight vigil and Remembrance service over the Armistice weekend will be a fitting way to remember those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice giving up their lives for our freedom.

On Sunday I will be attending my local village service at the War Memorial in St Michael’s Lychgate, Rocester, which I have done so now for the last 37 years.  As like every year, the names of the 25 villagers who lost their lives during the two World Wars, inscribed on the church’s lychgate, are read out followed by a two minute silence.

A whole country falling silent together in respect of others is truly a powerful concept, and I hope people are able to take some time to attend a local service over the weekend to remember those who gave up so much.

 

The 2018 budget and what it means for Staffordshire

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

On Monday we had the Chancellor’s Budget with pledges for some short-term funding for adult social care, extra money to tackle potholes and £1.6bn to deliver the industrial strategy.

On top of this were details of the £20bn for the NHS – and the extra £650m for councils to help manage the growing adult social care bill next year.

While the measures are welcome news for the taxpayer and High Street business, we are now looking at the details to see exactly what it means for Staffordshire.

I’ve blogged before about the county council seeing the cost of funding adult social care and supporting children in its care increase by more than £100m in the past ten years. This is all at a time when national funding has continued to fall. And, the reason we face a shortfall of £35m in our budget for next year.

But in this budget it was good to see the Chancellor recognise the huge financial pressures councils face in funding care with additional funding for 2019/20. The additional money for roads, science and innovation and measures to leave families with a little more money in their pockets are equally welcome.

Later in December, we’ll also get the Government’s Financial Settlement which will tell us exactly how much we have to spend.

Our work to supporting a strong economy by creating the best conditions for business and housing development to thrive continues. Creating not only more jobs, but more well-paid, better skilled jobs will be better for everyone and the county as a whole.

Celebrating the best of our food and drink businesses

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

This week we got the chance to celebrate the best of the county’s food and drink businesses at the 2018 Good Food awards

We really do have a thriving food and drinks sector in the county and this year’s ceremony at Uttoxeter Race course was a great opportunity to bring together the industry and showcase what we have to offer.

There were ten categories and it was a particularly good night for the Staffordshire Moorlands, with The Three Horseshoes Country Inn, Leek, winning the Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year award for the second successive year.  The Roebuck in Leek also got Pub of the Year, The Cottage Kitchen Country Café, near Leek, won Tea Room/Coffee Shop of the Year While The Boat Inn, near Lichfield was named Independent Restaurant of the Year.

And, closer to home for me,  Denstone Hall Farm Shop near Uttoxeter was named the Farm Shop of the Year, as well as being selected for the special Judges Choice Award for getting a faultless 100% score on their inspection and their continuous achievement of excellent customer service.  There were also awards for South Staffordshire’s Essington Farm, Seed Chocolate, Tamworth’s Buzzards Valley Vineyard, and Calcott Turkeys.

Our businesses continue to do us proud, offering the best of quality produce and wonderful hospitality and I’d like to say a huge well done to them all.  Keep up the good work.

You can find out more about eating out in Staffordshire and this year’s winners at www.enjoystaffordshire.com/GFA

A digital future

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

We can all see around us how digital technology can make our lives easier, improve productivity, increase skills and help the whole county prosper.

I’ve blogged about smart technologies before, and how they are having a real impact on how we do things often providing great opportunities and solutions to problems.   For example the introduction and growth of smart phone usage and the numerous things we can now do when and where we please.  Businesses also continue to use innovation and digital technology to make them more productive and better serve and connect with their customers.

On Friday I was delighted to launch an exciting partnership with Staffordshire University that will help us all harness the power and opportunities that new digital innovations are bringing.  Working together, the ‘Staffordshire Deal’ will not only help support a thriving local economy but improve people’s lives by making the most of this latest technology.

As well as a new digital hub in Stafford, and the promotion of digital skills to support the needs of local business, the partnership will also create thousands of apprenticeships over the next decade. The deal will also make sure businesses are ready and waiting for the digital future, because  investing in the economy is the best way to raise living standards.

It’s exciting times.

The University is already celebrating 50 years of computing excellence and have been national pioneers in computing and the digital future .  Now, working with them, and our other partners over the next few years, we will create a stronger and prosperous county where  more people have access to better jobs, and have more money in their pocket because they have the skills they need.

National Adoption Week

Monday, October 15th, 2018

I hope you will join me this week in supporting National Adoption Week and highlighting the urgent need for more adoptive families, in particular those willing to adopt sibling groups.

Currently in the county, Almost seven out of 10 children waiting for adoptive families are brothers and sisters in groups of two or more.  And, while finding families for sibling groups is the focus of our campaign, we are also looking for potential families for children of all ages, those with additional needs and children from ethnic minority backgrounds.

This week we’ve also seen New research that shows that the West Midlands has 4 times as many children awaiting adoptive families as there are adopters so there is a real need to find more loving families.

Children who come to adoption do so because their birth families are unable to care for them. Many of them have experienced neglect and trauma and need a loving, stable home.

We know that in most cases, adoption is the best option for children and it can transform the lives of those it touches.  I would definitely encourage people looking to start or complete their family to think about adoption and get in touch with the team.

Throughout the week, we have a series of road shows touring the county where people can find out more.  But, if you can’t make a road show you can also get in touch through www.Staffordshire.gov.uk/adoption or by calling 0800 169 2061.

Remember to get your flu jab

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

It’s that time of year again to remind anyone who’s elderly, who’s caring for someone who’s vulnerable or young children to have their flu vaccination.

As in previous years, the free flu vaccines are being offered to groups who are at particular risk of the virus.  Pregnant women, parents of children aged 2 and 3 years old, adults with underlying health conditions and young children are amongst the groups being encouraged to take up the offer of a free vaccination.

It’s really important that people eligible for their vaccination take this offer up.  Those who have had Flu will know how nasty and unpleasant it can be and for people with underlying health conditions it can be even more serious.

This year, children aged 2 and 3 will also receive the vaccine through their GP which comes in the form of a nasal spray. Pupils in reception and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 will also be given the vaccination spray in school but parents are reminded to make sure they have signed the consent form.

The flu vaccine really is the best defence against the spread of flu and the start of the flu season is always the best time to get vaccinated.  Please take up your offer of the vaccination and help us keep the flu away this winter.

You can find out more from your GP or your child’s school, or visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine

 

 

In the footsteps of J.R.R Tolkien

Friday, September 28th, 2018

It is a little known fact that Staffordshire had a major influence on the writings of one of the world’s greatest authors.

J.R.R Tolkien, author of best sellers The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings spent a short period of his early life living in Staffordshire, in particular during the Great War when posted to the Army training camps on Cannock Chase.

It was here that he got much of his inspiration for his works on the mythology, languages, history and landscape of what would become Middle-earth, the fictional world in which his stories are based.

To celebrate our proud connections, our Libraries Service have organised a series of guided walks that will take people through the landscapes and landmarks that had such an influence on his writing.

There are two walks taking place during October and November.  The Great Haywood Tolkien Trail is a ten mile walk on Sunday 21 October and the Cannock Chase Tolkien Trail, a slightly longer walk at 12 miles, on Thursday 8 November.

On the Great Haywood walk you’ll discover Brocton Coppice, the Sherbrook Valley, the village itself, or “Tavrobel”, Essex Bridge “The Grey Bridge of Tavrobel”, and Shugborough Hall “The House of a Hundred Chimneys” amongst others.

And, on the Cannock Chase walk you’ll get the chance to visit the Great War sites of Rugeley and Brocton Camps, including places where Tolkien himself was based.

The trails are perfect for Tolkien fans with not only a great opportunity to learn more about the connections but are also  a fun and healthy way to get out and explore some of our wonderful countryside.  If it sounds like your thing and you’re up for a good walk, you can book your place by calling 0300 111 8000.

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