Archive for January, 2010

Save the Staffordshire Hoard

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

The official fund raising campaign to keep the Staffordshire Hoard in its rightful region has kicked off. Please help us keep the fantastic Anglo-Saxon treasure in the West Midlands.

County council set to approve lowest ever Council Tax rise

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Staffordshire, like the rest of the country, is facing a challenging time ahead as we battle our way out of recession.
I understand that families, couples and individuals are tightening their belts and that every penny counts.

The Conservatives’ manifesto pledge at the elections in June reflected these troubled times. We vowed to improve services in key areas while keeping council tax as low as possible, which is why we are making the recommendation to bring in the lowest rise since council tax was introduced in 1993.Cash

We are putting forward an increase of 1.9 per cent, giving tax payers in the county the second lowest council tax rate of all county councils. In real terms, this means that a family living in a Band D property will pay 37p a week more for their services.

We reached this figure after consulting with a wide range of people on what our budget priorities should be and believe that this figure strikes just the right balance. A below inflation rise means council tax should not unduly add to the strain on the budgets of most families, including the elderly and vulnerable groups.

I am aware that we are still struggling with the affects of the economic slump. But to reduce council tax further would mean we could not keep our manifesto promise to raise standards in schools, improve care for the elderly and invest in roads.

Cabinet will consider the recommendation on Wednesday February 3. Full Council will be asked to approve a final budget on Thursday February 11.

An eye opening experience at Burton Addiction Centre

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

My eyes were well and truly opened to the harsh reality of drug and alcohol addiction when I took part in a lively debate on how best to support people on their long journey towards recovery.

The Burton Addiction Centre (BAC) threw open its doors to a whole host of people from different backgrounds and with a range of life experiences – but all with valid opinions and ideas on how to tackle this issue.

The Rt Hon Ian Duncan Smith, MP, who is the Chairman of Breakthrough Britain, was among the guests as was Mike Trace, CEO off RAPt which is one of the biggest providers of drug treatment services within the UK prison system.IMAG0009

Former news reader Ed Mitchell, whose battle with alcohol addiction has been well documented on prime time TV and is his book From Headlines to Hard Times, was also on hand to give a brave and honest account of the trials and tribulations that people with addiction problems face on a daily basis.

Noreen Oliver, MBE, founder and CEO of BAC, spoke passionately about the services that Staffordshire is offering today and her hopes for tomorrow.

The centre itself was also an inspiration, both to myself and the other guests. It focuses on providing a safe, structured and supportive environment which encourages people to work towards a more satisfying and healthy lifestyle away from alcohol and drugs.

The debate made me realise that some really positive steps are already being taken in the fight against substance misuse but as a county, and as a country, there is still work to do.

Meet our new Chief Executive

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

I’m pleased to announce that today colleagues and I gave our stamp of approval to the appointment of the new chief execStaffordshire County Council Chief Executive, Nick Bell.

In April this year Mr Bell will succeed the current Chief Executive Ron Hilton who is retiring. Nick is currently the Deputy Chief Executive of Essex Council and also acts as their finance director.

My colleagues and I at the council had very high expectations of the type of person we wanted to replace Ron Hilton and after a nationwide recruitment search I’m delighted that Nick Bell will be joining us.

Nick has a vast range of experience from finance, to transforming the way councils do business to service-based experience, all of which makes him ideal to lead our county council. You can find out about Nick’s experience in a biography put together here.

Nick’s arrival is another step ahead for Staffordshire and I’m pleased that the county council on the right track – our services are improving and we are in a stable financial position. As leader I will do my best to ensure we maintain and improve the pace of chance and take the next step up to deliver excellent services, manage the financial pressure ahead and put Staffordshire on the map regionally and nationally. Nick’s values reflected our own with innovation, efficiency and residents at the core.

Join the battle to save the Staffordshire Hoard

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Today I had the pleasure of joining historian and television presenter Dr David Strakey and many other partners at the official launch of a £5 million fundraising appeal to save the Staffordshire Hoard for our region.
staffordshire hoard
As some of you may know the fantastic golden Anglo-Saxon treasure has been valued at £3.3million but the appeal needs to raise additional funds to go towards the conservation and display.

There were lots of interesting people at the launch and I was delighted to meet Dr Starkey who some of you may know from TV programmes such as ‘Henry VIII of England’ and other history documentaries. The Hoard has captured the imagination of the nation and I’m pleased that he has leant his full support to the fund-raising appeal.

IMAG0029The treasure will help to unravel the mysteries of the Mercian Kingdom, and Staffordshire County Council and our partners will help ensure modern Mercia benefits culturally, educationally and economically from this wonderful find.

The Art Fund which is national charity organisation is leading the campaign to jointly acquire the treasure so that not only will the treasure stay in its rightful region but the story of the Hoard will stay develop here too.

If you would like to support the appeal all donations should be given via the official campaign website www.artfund.org/hoard or telephone on 0844 415 4004. Cheques can be made payable to ‘The Art Fund’ and sent to The Art Fund, Freepost LON 17186, PO BOX 2003, Kirkcaldy, KY2 6BR.

 Let’s get donating!

Help us shape the future of care and health services in Staffordshire

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I’d like to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to attend an event that will help shape how local care and health services are delivered in Staffordshire.

The session which will be on 26 January will be set up to attract fresh ideas and renewed interest in service delivery.

 The event has been be organised following our decision to take over the coordination of the LINKs (Local Involvement Networks) to help it restructure and gain new momentum before handing it to an independent provider.

Introduced in April 2008, LINKs aims to give people a stronger voice in how services are delivered. Run by local people, LINks exists to find out what people want, monitor local services and use their powers to hold related services to account.

It is so important that we get your views on how we run our services in Staffordshire and this event will be a fantastic opportunity to find out how you get involved and discuss proposals for the best way forward in helping to build a stronger, more successful LINks. Find out more here

Look out for your neighbour

Monday, January 11th, 2010

DSCF0031The snow has continued to fall across the county with some areas, such as the Staffordshire Moorlands experiencing significantly more than the rest of the county. As you can see from pictures taken in the Moorlands earlier in the week local residents are really feeling the brunt of the weather.

As the cold spell continues  id like to urge residents to keep an eye out for their neighbours who may be more vulnerable to the freezing temperatures. DSCF0037

Its important that if we live near or next to an older neighbour that we do check on their needs in the Winter months. Some people may find regular tasks such as shopping and getting out a bit more difficult.

While I would warn all residents to be aware of bogus callers around this time it important that neighbours who know eachother well look out for one another.

The National Keep Warm Keep Well Campaign provides a number of practical steps which can help older people to stay safe during the cold conditions.  These include:

  • Have regular hot drinks and, if possible, at least one hot meal a day.  Eating regularly helps to keep energy levels up during winter
  • Wear several light layers of warm clothes.
  • Keep as active as possible.
  • Keep your home at the right temperature – between 18 and 21 degrees centigrade.   If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep.
  • Remember to wrap up warm if you need to go outside.

More information about Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments can be found by visiting www.direct.gov.uk. If you are worried about the welfare of a neighbour in the cold weather please do contact their nearest relative or friend to get help or go direct to the emergency services.

Highways hotline feels the cold snap

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Hello everyone, I hope the cold and snowy snap we are experiencing at the moment isn’t disrupting your day to day lives too much.
IMAG0024
As farmer myself I appreciate that the cold weather certainly doesn’t make life easier at times. As you can see my flock have been feeling the chill too!

 The cold weather has brought with it some slippery and icy roads and again I would ask motorists and pedestrians to take extreme care when venturing out at the moment. As I mentioned in my last blog entry our gritters continue to work around the clock and although we grit higher than the national average, due to a national shortage in salt we are just gritting just A and B and areas deemed critical such as around GP surgeries. The salt on the road does stop working in very low temperatures though so please be careful.

 I would also like to urge people to only call the highways hotline, 0800 232323 to alert us about emergency situations rather than general gritting enquiries. At present the line is getting inundated with calls and we are desperate to ensure that real emergency calls are not blocked by minor issues.

I don’t like to end on a bad note but id like to warn residents about some high-pressure security sales that are doing the rounds at the moment in areas of Staffordshire. It involves some salespeople attempting to sell home security equipment. The sales technique involves ringing round potential customers to arrange appointments, then visiting people in their homes and using persuasive conversation to convince them that to feel more safe, they need additional home security.

I would urge Staffordshire residents to be wary of salespeople approaching them by phone or in person, using pressurised techniques to sell security systems, or indeed any other equipment or service.  When buying any goods or services we would always suggest shopping around and getting several quotes.

 Anyone with concerns can call Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards on 01782 297094.

Happy New Year to all

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the festive period and got the opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

To those of you who worked throughout Christmas and New Year, thank you very much for all your hard work. Without your work, many of the services that we all use and take for granted sometimes could not be kept going at Christmas.

The New Year will bring lots of exciting changes and improvements for Staffordshire and its residents and I will endeavour to keep you all up to date on my blog. My blog has the facility to take comments so please do send in your views and questions and I will do my best to reply.

j0442990[1]It won’t have escaped you that 2010 has brought some very cold and snowy conditions with it. If you must go out in your vehicle I would urge you to drive with extreme care as snow has covered most of the region. Our gritters are working flat out at the moment to keep Staffordshire moving but it is still important to take care when driving, especially they the highways teams cant get everywhere and extremely low temperatures can stop the salt working in places.

Despite the national shortage of salt supplies our gritters will be adapting their anti-freeze operations to keep things moving. We will however be gritting A and B roads only to save on valuable reserves. Dedicated teams will be spreading salt by hand in ‘critical’ places including around hospitals, GP surgeries and town centres but it would be irresponsible of us to continue gritting above the national average as we have been doing over the past few weeks.

If you would like information on snow disruption such as school closures please click here to find out more.

Take care all.