Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

County’s growth plans In front of Select Committee

Friday, July 13th, 2018

This week we will see a renewed focus on the County Council’s efforts to boost the economy, deliver major business investment projects and create nearly 20,000 jobs by 2024.

We’re almost half way through our  decade-long growth programme and we’ve already seen 15 projects completed and £160million investment.   This is great news for people in Staffordshire and part of our promise to create more better paid jobs for the county.

An update on progress is being presented to our Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee.  They will be told that for every £1 invested by the county council, £13.60 worth of private investment is levered in. So far on the completed sites there are already 6,650 people working or jobs committed.

On top of this, the committee will also be told that projects underway are valued at £204million – £15million of which is from direct county council investment.

But as well as major business and infrastructure development, the county council’s growth programme includes support for existing businesses, the development of skills to meet the needs of employers and the roll-out of initiatives like superfast fibre broadband.  For example we have helped support over 6,000 businesses over the last four years.

As I have blogged about before, we already have near full employment in Staffordshire with millions more investment in the pipeline, and more jobs on route.  This is all helping to make us a more prosperous county.

Making sure we have good road and rail links

This week Midlands Connect, the partnership responsible for powering the strategic transport plans for the Midlands Engine also published its annual report.

This is a very important area of work for Staffordshire and the wider region that is focusing on the strategic options for transport and connectivity.  Good roads and rail links are crucial for residents, businesses and continuing to grow a strong economy and we will continue to work with our partners to make sure this is in place.

In Staffordshire, our motorways are extremely busy and it is vital that we invest in a robust road network to meet day-to-day travel demands and support all our growth projects.

The Government is also looking to create a new Major Road Network (MRN) to identify and fund improvements to key roads and, with our partners, we will be looking to see some of these strategic A roads and well as motorways included in the MRN.  This together with improving the M6/M54 north link, creating better motorway junctions and encouraging more travel on public commercial buses and trains , will be key in easing congestion, reducing pressure on the motorway network and securing long-term growth and development.  You can read the full report here.

 

Enjoying the hot weather and staying safe

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

I’m sure most people have been enjoying the hot weather over the past few weeks and with it expected to continue, we’ve issued some advice on making the most of it and staying safe.

Here’s a sample but in a nutshell, be careful in the countryside, don’t swim in open water and keep an eye out for your elderly neighbours.  And spare a thought for the animals and live-stock.

Enjoying the countryside

After weeks of hot weather and little rain, the countryside is extremely dry which means the risk of fires is particularly high. We’ve already seen a number of quite serious grass and forest fires in parts of the county and we want to try and prevent this from happening again. Wild fires can threaten people, property and wildlife, putting lives at risk.

If you are planning to visit the countryside or our country parks then you can help keep everyone safe by following our rangers’ simple advice:

  • Please bring a picnic on your day out rather than a barbecue as these could start a fire.
  • We’re also reminding people not to light camp fires as the same thing could happen
  • Please don’t smoke in areas of dry vegetation and in all areas please make sure cigarettes are put out properly
  • Please put any rubbish in bins or take it home with you, especially glass and plastic bottles as they can magnify sunlight and cause fires
  • You may also find some paths or roads are closed due to high fire risk or where fires are being tackled – please follow all safety signs and find alternative routes to ensure you stay safe
  • If anyone does see a fire please call 999 immediately

Don’t swim in open waters

Open water like lakes and reservoirs can be very tempting for people to cool down in during hot weather, but they can be extremely dangerous too.

They may look very inviting but they can be very deep and cold even in direct sunlight. Even the most experienced swimmers can find themselves struggling in a few minutes. Our message is very simple, ‘please don’t take the risk,’ and if you have children, talk to them about the dangers.

We would always urge people who want to go swimming to be safe and go to public, supervised pools. You can find out where your nearest leisure centres are online.

Looking after your neighbours in the hot weather

Not everyone enjoys the hot weather. While most of us will welcome this hot spell, for some, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and young children, the summer heat can be a real pain and bring with it health risks.

That’s why we’re reminding everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk this summer. If you’re able, remember to ask if your friends, family or neighbours need any support.

Here’s some simple advice to help beat the heat in the hot weather

  • Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler.  Remember, it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
  • Drink plenty of water as sugary, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can make you more dehydrated
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
  • Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
  • Make sure you take water with you if you are travelling

Showcasing £70m regional partnership to support local businesses

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Last week we got the chance to showcase exciting plans to support over 1,000 innovative businesses as part of a regional collaboration to Small Business Minister, Andrew Griffiths MP

The New Keele Deal is enabling businesses to access Keele University’s world-class research and facilities, providing training in innovation leadership and facilitate supply chain development across a range of sectors.  Seven hundred jobs are being created as a result of the deal to stimulate growth of the knowledge-based economy in the area.  It’s a substantial project that will see Keele University work with the County Council, Staffordshire University, other local authorities and health partners.

It’s a great example of how we are working closely together with key partners to fully utilise the knowledge and expertise we have to improve productivity, innovation and employment opportunities for our residents.  It means we can play our role in developing the UK’s emerging Industrial Strategy.

As a county council we have already invested £2million in the new Smart Innovation Centre at Keele University Science and Innovation Park to support businesses to grow in addition to our previous £7million investment in Innovation Centre 5 at the site.

This is all part of our plans to support local businesses, grow our economy  and help create more better paid jobs for people in Staffordshire

Foster Carers Thanked at Long Service Awards

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Earlier this month, over 100 foster carers and members of the fostering team gathered for our Fostering long service awards to celebrate the amazing work that our army of foster carers do every day.

Held every 5 years, it’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect, recognise and thank them.

This time round, a special thanks went to Neville and Gillian Howe from Stafford, who were celebrating 40 years of fostering with the County Council.  This is a brilliant achievement.  With a down to earth approach, the couple share a passion and commitment to fostering that does not stop once the children have left.  They are still in touch with many of the children who they have fostered over the years who now regularly visit them and bring with them their own children.

Neville and Gillian are truly inspirational and even after 40 years still show no signs of stopping and continue to support a young man in their home.

I would like to thank Neville and Gillian and all our foster carers for the work they do and the huge difference they make to children’s lives right across the county. If fostering is something you are considering then please get in touch with our fostering team at www.care4child.org

Major engineering works in Burton

Monday, June 25th, 2018

People who live or work in Burton will be interested to hear that our major engineering project to future proof Burton Bridge is now underway and on schedule.

This is a really important project for the town which will not only ensure the bridge can continue to be used by HGVs but will also help improve the general prosperity of the town.

The main works which involve strengthening the bridge and improved drainage started on Monday and should be completed by the time the children go back to school in September.  It’s part of a wider £6.1m scheme to safeguard the use of both St Peter’s bridge and Burton Bridge.  As you may remember we completed the work on St. Peter’s Bridge last year.

We have been working closely with our  partners and listening to local businesses and the community to make sure the work is done as efficiently as possible. One lane into Burton has been kept open for traffic and access for cyclists and pedestrians will be maintained throughout the scheme.

An interesting part of the work last week also saw the removal of the town’s old tram lines which will be moved hopefully to a new home.  We always knew the tram lines were on the bridge but it gives us an exciting insight into part of the town’s transport  network back in the Victorian days.

If you’re interested in keeping up-to-date with the project and the works you can do so at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/burtonbridges.  You can also sign up for a weekly news update too.

Welcoming back the UK Corporate Games

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

While we’re incredibly proud that Staffordshire was able to play its role in helping the England squad in their pre World Cup training at St. Georges Park and we wish them luck in the rest of the competition, it’s not the only tournament in town.

This weekend, we’ll once again be welcoming back to the area the UK Corporate Games. Built on the success of our previous games in 2015, we have deservingly been chosen once again to host them, beating off stiff competition from other major UK cities.

With around 4,000 competitors from over 60 companies expected, it’s a great opportunity to welcome and meet executives from some of the UK’s top UK firms and talk to them about the investment opportunities available in the area. The last Games also helped generate around £3m for the local economy which is good for our local businesses too.

This year we also have over a dozen local companies with around 1,000 employees taking part, so another good opportunity for them to meet new customers, suppliers and clients, as well as promoting a healthy workforce and building a strong team bond.

I hope people will join me in wishing everyone taking part good luck, and offer all our visitors a warm Staffordshire welcome and hope they return for a future visit with their families too.

Staffordshire’s growing economy

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

The latest unemployment figures issued this week show that only 1.3 per cent of the local working age population here in Staffordshire is claiming out of work benefits and it has been the same over the last three months.  Once again, this is lower than both regional (2.8 per cent) and national (2.1 per cent) averages which is encouraging news and proves there are lots of job opportunities here in the county.

One of the county council’s key priorities is growing our economy and creating more better quality jobs for people so we can all lead a better healthier life. A good example of the kind of projects we are undertaking to encourage more business and investment in the county is at Branston Locks near Burton which we’ve just completed.  This was an ambitious project involving realigning a road and building a new canal bridge, paving the way for a multi-million pound business, housing and leisure development. Around 400 acres of land will be developed with 2,500 new homes, a range of community facilities and a 50-acre employment site.

Other major developments and expansions are also underway including at i54 South Staffordshire, Four Ashes Business Park and Kingswood Lakeside.  It really is encouraging to see such great progress at all our key development sites which will ultimately lead to more, better skilled and better paid jobs – meaning Staffordshire’s residents can enjoy the benefits of an ever growing prosperity.

MBEs and BEMs for Staffordshire residents

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Firstly, a huge congratulations to everyone who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours over the weekend.  Once again, Staffordshire and it’s people have done us very proud.

Around a dozen people from across the county were recognised for their work in a range of areas including, supporting victims of domestic violence, the Girl Guides, cancer research and emergency care with the award of MBEs and BEMs.

“Everything that is great about Staffordshire rests on the foundations of its people, those who live and work to make the county a better place for all of us and, as always, I’m delighted to see this recognition of their contributions to, and achievements in, the community.

One recipient of a BEM is Michael Burke, who works for the County Council’s Children’s Services helping children with autism.  Other winners are listed below and I would like to offer them all my congratulations on behalf of the county and thank them for their invaluable contributions helping to make Staffordshire a great place to live.

  • an MBE for Eileen Chester-James, of Stafford, the Chief Executive of Staffordshire Women’s Aid, for services to victims of domestic violence;
  • an MBE for Prof Vincent Gaffney, of Stafford, Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford, for services to scientific research;
  • an MBE for Jill Parker, of Pattingham, for services to the magistracy and community in South Staffordshire and Wolverhampton;
  • an MBE for Joan Margaret Redfern, of Burton, for services to the Girl Guides Association in Staffordshire;
  • a BEM for Anne Fiona Cherriman, of Stafford, for services to charities and the community in Stafford;
  • a BEM for Anthony Clive Ebbutt, of Burton, for services to charities and the community in Burton;
  • a BEM for Margaret Elise Hassall, of Little Haywood, for services to the community in Stafford;
  • a BEM for Ada Anna Haywood, of Newcastle, for services to Cancer Research UK;
  • a BEM for Dorothy Kay, of Rushton Spencer, for services to the community in Dane Valley;
  • a BEM for Neil Ronald James Phillips, of Uttoxeter, a volunteer and fundraiser for Uttoxeter Community First Responders, for services to emergency care.

Doing things differently and giving children the best start in life

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

The County Council is always looking for new innovative ideas and finding new, more efficient ways of doing things.

A good example of this is within our Children’s Services where a reorganisation of our children centres has delivered on its key promise of focusing help on more vulnerable families. Figures now show the percentage of vulnerable children aged 0-to-five being helped in the county has increased over three years from 48 per cent to 76 per cent. We’re now reaching thousands more children which is good news, and it’s clear that it’s making a real difference to families.

Also, in recent years the number of children ‘school ready’ has risen from 54 per cent to 75 per cent.  This means that children are getting a better start in life and turning up for school ready and able to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them.

Our success is partly due to taking services out to the people who needed them most, to be delivered where they are, and through closer working with our partners and colleagues in the voluntary sector.

While there is still more work to be done, we are definitely heading in the right direction and having a huge impact on some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.  I will keep you updated on our progress.

Ironman 70.3

Monday, June 4th, 2018

If you enjoy your sporting events, then this Sunday is the IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire triathlon which for the first time will finish in the centre of Stafford.  More than 2000 competitors are expected to take part in the annual race, all hoping to complete a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile half marathon.

The event, now in its fourth year,  is always a great spectacle that provides a welcome boost for the local economy, businesses and tourism.  Last year, an estimated £1.4 million was spent on food and accommodation by competitors, and a further £1 million spent by spectators during the weekend.

I’m sure this year’s event  will be as popular as ever and if you want to catch the action there’s lots of designated spectating areas throughout the course.  There will also be some road closures on the day itself to help keep everyone safe and you can get all the details to help plan your day at www.ironman.com.

And finally, good luck to everyone taking part.