Archive for May, 2010

Reflecting on a positive first year in power

Friday, May 28th, 2010

As the end of my first year in power at Staffordshire County Council draws near I have been reflecting on what a memorable 12 months it has been.

While national politicians have been on a roller coaster ride, locally we have been finding our feet.

My top priority is, and always has been, the health, wealth and happiness of the people of this county.

It is during times of national turmoil that we are able to pull together to find a way to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and become stronger and more successful than ever.

As Leader of the county council it is my job to help to make this dream a reality.

We have done many things over the last 12 months to support the county’s residents during these troubled times.

The economy boosting community volunteers programme has had a really positive impact with 127 people signing up to the initiative and an impressive 21 people gaining jobs or entering into full time education thanks to the skills they have learnt.

We also announced the lowest ever increase in council tax, with a rise of just 1.9%, and have frozen the rents at our 13 business centres to give small to medium sized firms a helping hand.

We are also encouraging schools to look at different models of governance and giving them greater diversity in how they are run.

Social care services are increasingly being tailored to give people a more freedom and choice in how they live their lives.

The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard was an unexpected and major highlight of our first year in power.

The Hoard, which contains more than 1,500 objects including 5kg of gold and 1.3kg of silver, attracted interest from around the world and has really put Staffordshire on the international map.

The treasure is now being showcased at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

It really has been an exciting first year and I am looking forward to another positive and productive 12 months.

Stepping into the sunshine as part of Walk to School Week

Friday, May 21st, 2010
I stepped into the dazzling sunshine yesterday to join pupils at Richard Clarke First School as they took part in National Walk to School Week.

Dozens of children regularly put their best foot forward to take part in two Walking Buses which the school in Abbots Bromley runs.

Walking to school with pupils at Richard Clarke First School

The county council’s Road Safety Unit spearheads the initiative with the help of community minded parents who give up their time to lead the groups.

The scheme has proved to be quite a phenomenon in Staffordshire and it is easy to see why – it cuts down on CO2 emissions, boosts fitness among youngsters and, above all, it is a lot of fun.

It was great to see so many children embracing the Walking Bus ethos and their enjoyment was definitely contagious.

Richard Clarke was just one of 160 schools in Staffordshire that signed up to the national campaign with an impressive 34,000 pupils taking part across the county.

It is the dedication of the parents, teachers and, of course, the children themselves that have made Staffordshire the leading light when it comes to this initiative in England and Wales.

A total of 148 regular Walking Buses are in operation across the county which is more than in any other local authority area.

The event is going from strength to strength year on year – the number of children taking part shot up by around 8,000 compared to 2009 – and I have high hopes that this exciting trend will continue in the future.

A chance to see local democracy in action

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

A chance to see local democracy in action I’m looking forward to taking local democracy on the road tomorrow when we will be hosting our Full Council meeting in Leek.

This is a great opportunity for residents in the north of the county to see their councillors in action and find out what happens at the cutting edge of local politics.

Councillors from across the political spectrum will be debating and discussing issues of importance to the residents of Staffordshire and deciding the best direction to take when reaching decisions.

The meeting, which starts at 10am on May 20, will also be available to view online to allow residents across the county to tune into the debate. Just visit http://www.staffordshire.public-i.tv/site/

It is particularly fitting that we will be travelling to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council offices for this meeting as we are currently celebrating Local Democracy Week.

I really hope that residents in the Moorlands will seize this opportunity to gain an insight into the topics that we discuss and how decisions are reached for the good of the people of Staffordshire.

A warm welcome to Eric Pickles

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’m delighted to hear that Eric Pickles has been revealed as the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Eric has held an impressive range of positions within the House of Commons and was Leader of

Working with Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles visits us at the county council

Bradford City Council.   His experience will prove invaluable in this vital role.

He is no stranger to Staffordshire having visited the area in the run up to the local elections last year when he spent time talking to future County Councillors about the challenges that we face as a county.

With his knowledge of our area and the expertise he has gained over many years of service in Westminster I am sure that he will prove to be a skilled and talented Secretary of State.

I look forward to working closely with Eric in the future and putting forward the views of our residents.

History in the making

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

History has been made this week as the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have joined forces to run the country.

The new Government coalition, led by David Cameron as Prime Minister and Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, represents a new chapter for the United Kingdom and one that I hope will lead to a brighter future for the people of Staffordshire.

Image of David Cameron and Philip Atkins

Working with David Cameron

The eagerly awaited announcement of this new Government will give us the strength to move forward and rise to the challenges that we face as a country.

We are all keen to see our economy recover from the trauma of recession and the social ramifications it has reaped.

We now seem to be on the right track to make a big impact on these issues and I am keen to support Staffordshire’s nine MPs in creating a strong and stable United Kingdom.

With six new Staffordshire Members of Parliament coming into the House of Commons I am looking forward to seeing the county’s voice being heard in Westminster.

Staffordshire’s results are crystal clear

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Election fever is both gripping and confusing the nation today but here in Staffordshire the situation has never been clearer.

The Conservative Party now has eight MPs representing the county and there is one Labour MP.

We have six new MPs who will be fighting for the rights of the county’s residents and battling to put local issues onto the national agenda. They join the three MPs who have been re-elected.

Despite the excitement of the last 24 hours, I have already put pen to paper and written to each of our MPs to congratulate them on their achievement.

I am looking forward to working closely with them and plan to meet them all soon to discuss how we can continue on our journey to making Staffordshire the best county that it can be.

Staffordshire’s General Election results – http://moderngov.staffordshire.gov.uk/mgElectionResults.aspx?ID=9&RPID=5498469

Purdah is over

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Purdah is finally over! Thank goodness!

As you will see from my last blog entry ‘purdah’ has meant that frustratingly I have been unable to update you with our latest work in Staffordshire which is why it’s a slightly longer entry today.

We are obviously waiting with baited breath for the imminent result of the general election but whatever the outcome Staffordshire will be getting a number of new MPs. 

I’d like to take this opportunity now to welcome them into the Staffordshire family and look forward to working with them all in the near future whichever party they represent.

Despite ‘purdah’ It has been business as usual at the county council and over the past few weeks we have been making some real headway with some of our large scale plans to improve services in Staffordshire for all our communities.

Our £30 million pound investment plan to regenerate Staffordshire’s roads is well underway with teams out working hard on potholes and road resurfacing. Only last week the work of our highways team was recognised at a national awards ceremony where the team was praised for its achievements for vital improvement projects in Stafford.

Over recent weeks we have been working on involving members of the public and our partners in planning for the future of adult Social Care and Health. The ‘Your Voice’ conference held last week brought together around 150 people keen to be involved in developing services that are fair and importantly keep the individual at the centre of what we do.

Whoever is successful at this election it is clear that there are going to be tough times ahead. My colleagues and I will be working especially hard to ensure that Staffordshire County Council delivers value for money across all our services. There will also be special emphasis placed on helping local people boost our local economy.

As always, I would welcome all comments and suggestions on my blog.

 It’s going to be long night. Watch this space.