Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

What the budget means for Staffordshire

Friday, March 13th, 2020

On Wednesday we had the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s first budget and while we need to read through the finer detail we certainly welcome some of the announcements.

In my last post, I spoke about Coronavirus and the Government’s action plan to tackle it, so it was good to see the Chancellor recognise the challenge by pledging billions of pounds to get the country through the outbreak as well as saying the NHS would get whatever resources it needs 

Other highlights of the budget included investment in key infrastructure such as roads and broadband connectivity, including a forecast £11 million a year for Staffordshire for repairing potholes.

The decision to increase the business rate discount for pubs and cancel the planned beer duty increase is also good news for Burton’s brewing industry.  The suspension of fuel duty was also welcome for our rural county while green travel alternatives are developed.

The county council already plans to invest more than £120 million in capital projects this financial year such as schools and business sites and to build nursing homes for older people in areas of need. On top of this we will also be investing £690,000 in climate change and sustainability projects and an additional £8.1 million in helping to keep more children out of care.

Clearly we will be looking at the fine detail of the announcement in the coming weeks but we will continue to lobby Government for long term solutions to council funding. This includes finding a sustainable funding arrangement for social care, which now accounts for 65 per cent of our budget.

Coronavirus advice for Staffordshire

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I’m sure that most people will be closely following the story around coronavirus COVID-19 and the Government’s action plan to tackle it.

Last week we saw our first cases here in Staffordshire and I want to reassure everyone that we continue to work very closely with Public Health England and the NHS to monitor and manage any emerging risks.

It’s a rapidly changing situation and we are encouraging everyone to play their part by following NHS advice to help reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus

For the vast majority of people it remains very much business as usual for the moment. The easiest and most effective way to stop the virus spreading is to follow good basic hygiene. This includes washing your hands more often and for 20 seconds and not touching your face if you’ve haven’t washed them.  Using the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ practice for coughs and sneezes will also help to lessen the chance of infection.

The cases of coronavirus here in the county are nothing unexpected. We fully anticipate an increase in numbers which is why our services have planned for, and are ready, for this situation.

Once again, I’d like to reassure people that the risk to individuals remains low and we continue to work with the NHS and other partners to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Staffordshire are protected.

You can sign up for our Coronavirus Update e-newsletter here.

New recycling campaign reminds residents to recycle plastic bottles

Friday, March 6th, 2020
Staffordshire pupils have been helping spread the word about recycling

In my previous blog posts I’ve spoken at length about our work to tackle climate change and what activities and plans we are putting in place to help protect our environment. This latest campaign marks another important step in us addressing some of those key issues by reducing waste and boosting recycling.

Plastic Bottles: Recycle One and All is our brand new county-wide campaign to encourage everyone to recycle more plastic bottles.

In Staffordshire, one in four plastic bottles, that are perfectly recyclable, are still thrown away and we want to reduce this. We’re simply asking people to recycle just one extra plastic bottle, per person, per week. If everyone does that, it will save over 46 million plastic bottles in a year, which is the equivalent of nine Olympic-sized swimming pools. That’s great for our environment and value for money for council tax payers.  

While the target is ambitious, it’s important that we all do our bit, and I believe it’s more than achievable if everyone gets involved. Like lots of our other recent campaigns, it’s a small action for each of us, but together they make a big difference!

Through TV, radio, posters and a social media and email campaign, we’ll be showing people top recycling tips and exploring the types of bottles that can be recycled that some people don’t think about. We’ll also be giving people inspiring examples of how recycled plastic bottles can be turned into useful things like park benches, traffic cones,  car batteries and even gardening equipment.

Here’s some top plastic bottle recycling tips to get you started:

  1. All empty plastic bottles can be recycled, just pour out any remaining contents and send them on their way.
  2. Worried about lids? Keep them on! Even though lids are made from a different type of plastic than bottles, they are still recyclable, just put them back on before recycling. 
  3. Any colour goes! All coloured bottles, except black ones, can be recycled through the Council’s high-tech machines at the mixed recycling facility.
  4. Where possible, reuse your plastic bottles or invest in a reusable. If you do need to use a plastic bottle always recycle it and bring any bottles bought on the go home to recycle.

The campaign will run from March for a whole year, with community and schools activity taking place in Cannock and Tamworth districts before moving around the county.

People can sign up to get top recycling and reusing tips and find out more at http://reuseandrecycle.doingourbit.info or follow #ReuseandRecycle on social media.

Switching over to green energy

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Last July the county council declared a climate change emergency and pledged to do more to reduce its carbon footprint and be kinder to the environment.

Over recent years we have made some big changes and reduced our carbon footprint by moving staff out of old inefficient buildings and introducing biomass boilers in Staffordshire Place, but we know that we still need to do more. 

One of the things we’ve done, more recently, is switched to green energy in all our buildings, as well as streetlighting and traffic signals across Staffordshire.

Making this switch means the council’s annual carbon usage has reduced by a total of 24,000 tonnes. Added to a saving of around 19,000 tonnes achieved previously for reducing the amount of buildings in use and switching to smart street lighting, this means the council has reduced its carbon output by nearly 43,000 tonnes.

Green energy comes from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, rain and geothermal heat and are much more environmentally friendly. These energy sources are naturally renewable, as opposed to fossil fuels that create more pollution and are a finite resource.

We know there’s much more to do and we continue to look for new ways of addressing the issue across all council functions and departments. And, as well as looking at our own contracts and processes, we will continue to work closely with our district and borough partners and continue to lobby Government and consider the implementation of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Free NHS Health Checks to roll out across the county

Monday, February 24th, 2020
Be sure to keep an eye out for the Everyone Health van

One of the county council’s number one priorities is to help people be healthy and happy and to encourage them to make the right lifestyle choices.

Our free NHS Health Checks are one way to help people do this and to find out how healthy they are, and the steps they can take now to nip any potential problems in the bud and set themselves up for a healthier future.

They are a bit like an MOT for your health and are for people aged 40 to 74 who live in Staffordshire and have no underlying health issues. They can also help identify any potential issues early on, so people can make the necessary changes and avoid more serious problems as they get older.

Further to this, the recent ‘Health of the Nation report’ found that up to 75% of cases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and 40% of dementia cases could be reduced if people adopt a healthier lifestyle.

To make it easy for people a series of roadshows have been organised at local village halls and venues across the county where people can just drop in. During the health check, people will get their blood pressure checked and a cholesterol test and get their results immediately, along with any free health and lifestyle advice.

It really is a simple process and it only takes around 20 minutes to find out how healthy you are, and I would encourage anyone in the age bracket to try and have one done.

Everyone Health are carrying out the health checks on behalf of the county council with roadshows across the county:

  • Abbots Bromley Village Hall 24th Feb 2pm-8pm
  • Barton under Needwood Village Hall 28th Feb 2-8pm
  • Tutbury Village Hall 2nd March 2-8pm
  • Marchington Village Hall 6th March 2-8pm
  • Ashley Memorial Hall 13th March 2-8pm
  • Martin Heath Village hall 21st Feb 2-8pm
  • Madeley Centre 10th March 2-8pm
  • Eccleshall Community Centre 11th March 2-8pm

Further advice can be found at www.everyonehealth.co.uk/staffordshire.

It’s definitely worth doing.

Getting the best deal for Staffordshire is our aim as PM gives HS2 green light

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Phase One and Phase 2a of the HS2 rail project, which will run from the Midlands to Crewe, will go ahead.  He also said that Phase 2b should be considered as part of a wider integrated High Speed North rail plan and gave his backing to the operation of the Handsacre Link, which will allow the area to benefit from HS2 compatible trains via Stafford.

At the very least, this brings an end to years of uncertainty for communities. Regular readers of my blog will know that the HS2 project will cut through 45 miles of Staffordshire countryside and from the outset we have championed the cause of our county and our communities in terms of securing meaningful mitigation and compensation.

From the outset, we have been committed to getting the best deal for Staffordshire in terms of mitigation for our county. We have also made it very clear that Staffordshire must share in any economic benefits and improved connectivity. This includes ensuring we benefit from HS2 compatible trains via Stafford once the Handsacre Link is built. Although there has been some doubt over whether this will be built, it does have the backing of the Prime Minster and is part of the legislation passed to construct Phase One. We look forward to building on the measures we have secured so far and will be working with the new dedicated HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP to ensure the voice of Staffordshire continues to be heard.

With confirmation that the scheme will now go ahead, be assured  our work to get the best deal for Staffordshire and our communities continues and to make sure the government deliver on their promises. You can read more about HS2 here. 

Preparing for a new future in the EU

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

On 31 January the UK officially left the EU after 47 years bringing to an end the past few years of uncertainty. And, while this has brought certainty for our communities and businesses, to bring clarity there’s still a lot of important work and negotiations to be done over the next eleven months.

As Leader of the county council, my responsibility is to the people of Staffordshire and ensuring the county remains a place where everyone has the opportunity to be prosperous, to be healthy, and to be happy. 

It’s my job to make sure we continue to create the right conditions so businesses can prosper, and that their interests, and those of our local economy are safeguarded.

I have blogged about this before but we’ve already been working  closely with our partners locally and with various Government departments to help shape the national direction, and to raise Staffordshire’s profile in preparing for the future.

I do believe that our exit from the EU does present businesses with a wide range of opportunities, but businesses need to ensure they are aware of the advice and guidance available to help them prepare for 2021 when the transition period ends.

We’ve also been working with the Stoke and Staffordshire Growth Hub to put on a series of workshops for local businesses covering the main issues.

Another important aspect in relation to leaving the EU is the Government’s Settlement Scheme which will allow EU citizens, if eligible, to remain and work in the UK. EU citizens in Staffordshire make a great contribution to our economy, so we want to ensure as many of them as possible are aware of the scheme and can apply before the June 31 deadline.

I would like to reassure you that the county council is keeping a close eye on whatever happens so that everyone in Staffordshire remains prepared and ready for whatever opportunities the future may bring.

Launching our Dignity in Care Awards

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
Cllr Alan White with some of last years’ award attendees

Only last month, I blogged about our record spending on care, including adult social care, and how it now accounts for around 65% of the county council’s total spend.

Social care still remains one of the fastest growing sectors in the county employing an estimated 20,000 people. This along with the huge numbers of informal carers looking after family members means it’s a really important area of work that touches the lives of thousands of people.

That’s why every year we put on the Staffordshire Dignity in Care Awards.  Now in their sixth year, we recognise and celebrate those amazing carers and organisations who put dignity at the heart of everything they do.

Those working in the care sector, informal carers, young carers, care companies, and voluntary organisations are all eligible. There are 9 categories this year, so there’s something for everyone.

Nominating for the Staffordshire Dignity in Care Awards is quick and easy and you can start here: https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/Care-for-all-ages/Dignityincare/home.aspx  

The closing date for nominations is Friday 1st May and remember those shortlisted get the chance to attend our special celebration event on 14 July at Newcastle College of Performing Arts.

If you do know an amazing carer, (who may be a work colleague, friend, family member or neighbour as well as a professional carer), or a great care organisation then please get them nominated for an award. Thank you.

Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day

Monday, January 27th, 2020
Staffordshire County Council Chief Executive John Henderson, Chairman Kath Perry, and Leader Philip Atkins, mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Seventy five years ago, the infamous Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated and is the reason why we’re commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.

It’s really important that we remember those affected by genocide around the world and the day gave us the chance to reflect on the past but also helping empower us to build a better future for us all.

On Monday and throughout the week, organisations from across the county are marking the occasion with memorial events and activities. Our own libraries have also got involved with a series of displays to raise awareness and encourage learning.  I do hope that people can take a few moments during the week to remember and reflect.

Work going well on multimillion pound Lichfield Southern Bypass

Friday, January 24th, 2020

I mentioned this in my last post and gave a shout out to the crews who worked over the Christmas holiday to get work completed on a new rail bridge in Lichfield.

This was a fairly major engineering project and part of the multi-million-pound Lichfield southern bypass scheme which will help ease congestion and support economic development in the city. You can watch the installation of the rail bridge on time lapse video here.

Now, with the new bridge in place, the project team will be able to excavate underneath to connect the new section of road with the Falkland Road/Birmingham Road island. Once complete, the scheme will connect the A5127 Birmingham Road with the A5206 London Road.

This is another example of the county council and our partners delivering a major development project on schedule and is a hugely encouraging start to the new year.

I’m excited about 2020. Over the next twelve months we’re going to see significant progress with our main transport and business construction projects, namely the Stafford Western Access Route, i54 South Staffordshire western extension and Lichfield southern bypass. These are all vital projects for our future growth, bringing in investment, new homes, good quality jobs and improving connectivity.