Archive for February, 2010

Stafford Hospital Report – Reflects County Council’s Concerns

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Today’s report published by Robert Francis QC has reflected our serious concerns raised by our administration.

The robust and in-depth report goes into failings at the hospital and looks at the reasons for the failings. These findings are important so that Stafford Hospital can improve its service in the future but we must also never lose sight of the fact that people lost loved ones which is a very personal tragedy.

Our cabinet met with Robert Francis before he started his inquiry and made clear our views on the failings that resulted in this terrible tragedy.

It is clear that it was lethal combination of failings in both national and local regulation and in short a lot of organisation looked at Stafford Hospital but nobody saw what was happening.

We will now be urging the Staffordshire Health Scrutiny Committee to strengthen their role in ensuring a tragedy of this scale can never happen again.

An ‘Outstanding’ music and dance service for Staffordshire

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

It’s fantastic when our services in Staffordshire get the recognition they deserve so I’m delighted that Staffordshire Performing Arts (SPA) has been rated as ‘Outstanding’. The verdict was one of only a handful in the country to achieve this grade in a national programme of evaluation of all music services in England.

The judgement follows a four day visit by the national Federation of Music Services (FMS) found that SPA provides high quality learning and teaching and provides schools, pupils and communities with an excellent level of support.

Lessons were described as ‘inspirational’ and leadership and management of the service were rated as outstanding.

Personally I’m delighted and it is very fitting as new research from the FMS which prove what I think many people have believed for a long time; learning music supports the development of the complete child raising aspiration, self-esteem, behaviour and academic achievement.

To find out more about our performing arts service go to www.staffordshire.gov.uk/spa

Stop stealth tax on vital businesses

Friday, February 19th, 2010

The present government are proposing to re introduce the tax on empty business buildings. At the county council we are very much opposed to this as it really will stifle our businesses that are working so hard to get back on their feet in a recession.

We will be calling on government to stop the proposal and reconsider. I have already been down to London to lobby MPs on the issues is a drive to fight the corner for Staffordshire’s vital small business community.

Many people have no idea how difficult it is for small businesses to stay afloat in difficult economic times and to have another tax placed on them would be unfairly penalising them.

Not all business properties are economically productive all the time. If buildings are taxed from the moment the roof goes on it will stop businesses undertaking new developments. It is really is the last thing businesses will need. We should be liberating our enterprise potential not locking up the precise people who help to keep our local economy going.

Take a look at the news package below which goes some way to explain the situation

Somebody else’s child – everybody’s responsibility

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Everybody has a role in keeping children safe – whether you are a teacher, youth worker, neighbour or just chat to the other parents at the school gate. This is why we are encouraging communities to be aware and if they hear about a child who is being privately fostered to let us know immediately so we can ensure the child is being kept safe.

For those of you who aren’t sure, private fostering describes an arrangement when someone who is not a close relative cares for another person’s child for 28 days or more. Legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that they can ensure the child is being properly looked after.

This campaign is running all over the country at the moment but in Staffordshire if anyone who thinks that they may be privately fostering, knows someone who is or if you would simply like to find out more please telephone First Response free on 0800 13 13 126. You can also find out more here

Allowances freeze for second year

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

You won’t have escaped the two main issues that have dominated the news in the last 12 months. These of course have been the financial climate and MPs who have abused expenses.

Some people may not be aware but County councillors like myself have never had expenses or allowances remotely comparable to those of MPs. However, I feel as elected representative, we have a duty to show our claims are above reproach. It is also very important that we set an example in times of financial hardship.

That is why I have recommended that county councillors accept a freeze in their allowances for the second year running.

Each year the council is to consider a report from the Independent Remuneration Panel which makes recommendations on the level of allowances for county councillors for the forthcoming year. Although the report has yet to be published, councillors are taking the initiative and refraining from taking any increases in allowances. Im pleased to say that Cabinet had no qualms about agreeing to the freeze today.

It is especially important this year as our hard-working employees are not being offered a pay rise, and we need to do the right thing by them and our residents.

Record voted for UK Youth Parliament elections

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I am continually stressing the importance of young people’s awareness of democracy which is why I am delighted that we have had a record number of young people in Staffordshire vote in the UK Youth Parliament elections.

This year almost 21,500 made their voices heard and voted eight young people into office for the county, 4 of them will be Members of the Youth Parliament and 4 of them will be Deputy Members of the Youth Parliament.

The high number of votes meant we had a 60 per cent increase on last year and all the young people’s electioneering in schools, youth clubs and town centres really paid off.

Its great to know how many young people in Staffordshire are prepared to put themselves forward for the issues they believe in and id like to congratulate them all.

Our eight members will represent  Staffordshire in the West Midlands Youth Parliament, and will also sit on Staffordshire’s Youth Action Kouncil (YAK), a decision making body for the county’s young people.  The four MYPs will also have the chance to represent the UK at a national parliament in July

End mineral madness

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Mineral extraction, or quarrying as most of us know it, is good for jobs and for our local economy. However, excessive quarrying also blights the countryside and local communities.

Not many people realise but Staffordshire is the UK’s number one sand and gravel producer and is currently required to provide 65% of the West Midlands sand and gravel. Although we are proud of how this industry helps our local economy, to keep quarrying at these levels is simply not sustainable which is why we have launched a high profile campaign calling for a fair deal.

We will be protesting against the high rates of extraction that have been proposed for the area in the coming years. If proposals go ahead we will have to increase the amount we quarry which aside from being unfair is simply unsustainable. We will end up having to start digging up areas of our beautiful countryside.

The Regional Assembly will be making critical decisions about the future of quarrying in Staffordshire at a meeting in Lichfield on March 17 so time is running out and we need your help.

Please take a look at our ‘Minerals Madness’ campaign website here and if you agree, sign our e-petition today!

Planning inspector hears evidence in waste disposal inquiry

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

As most of you will know as well as being leader of the County Councillor I am also a borough councillor and a Staffordshire farmer.

Like most fellow farmers I take great pride in my land which is why is disappointed me to hear about the case of Adam Silitoe.

Since 2007 it appeals that Landowner Mr Silitoe, of Pear Tree Farm, Stubwood Lane, Denstone has been spreading waste unlawfully.

Anyone disposing on land must have planning permission to do so. Mr Silitoe maintains that he is using organic waste as fertiliser on farmland and so is exempt from planning laws. However, since 2007 the local parish council raised some concerns and the county council and I have had numerous complaints from nearby residents about the smells, state of the land the state of nearby roads.

This obviously sparked concern and shortly after the county council’s planning committee served the enforcement notice on Mr Silitoe.

He has appealed against the council’s enforcement notice and a five-day public inquiry in which I have contributed to is now being heard.

I understand that there is a grey area in the law in terms of waste disposal, but this is not normal farming practice anywhere in the country.

Apart from the obvious environmental worries, Mr Silitoe keeps cattle on the farm and Bilthfield Reservoir is nearby and contamination and disease is always a concern.

As the local member I fully support the county council in its enforcement action.

Don’t be diddled by a scam fiddle

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

February marks Scams Awareness Month. Our Trading Standards’ Officers are working hard to create awareness about scams and provide advice on how to avoid being duped.philip 008

I can speak from personal experience and say that it is so important to be aware about the latest scams that are doing the rounds. Only the other week I was sent a piece of scam mail to my business asking for around £900.

Get a list of the latest scams that are in circulation at the moment here.

To find out more Consumer Direct can be contacted by telephoning 08454 04 05 06 or visiting www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/scamnesty

Primary school children star in local democracy film

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I think it is really important we teach our young people about how vital decisions are made for the county and how important it is to vote.

Last week pupils from a Lichfield primary school visited our County Buildings in Stafford where they were given the task of deciding how to spend thousands of pounds of public money.

Twenty five children decided in groups how they would spend a budget of £100,000 of taxpayers’ money across all public services. Each group then had to explain their decision to classmates. And they had the added pressure of being under the spotlight of a film crew for the county council’s SCCTV section of its website. See how they got on by watching the film below.