Archive for July, 2010

A long week

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Sorry for not updating for a while, but it’s been a busy week.

On Wednesday I travelled to London to take part in a round-table discussion on Local Enterprise Partnerships hosted by Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise. As you can see from previous entries these partnerships will play a key element in economic regeneration and it was an extremely useful and productive event.

I also spoke to Eric Pickles (do I need to tell you he’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government?) about increased localism. It still feels refreshing that after so many years of councils being told what to do in minute detail by Government they are now telling us that what we deliver is down to local people and local priorities.

At the weekend I was involved in a very moving ceremony of remembrance to mark the 48th annual exchange visit between Bremen in Germany and Staffordshire. Every year a party of young people visits Staffordshire to help tend the graves at the Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof at Cannock Chase – this is the cemetery where the German servicemen who lost their lives in UK during both world wars are laid to rest.

It is a regular cultural exchange that has become cherished by young people from Staffordshire and Germany.

The previous evening I’d been to the annual prize-giving at Thomas Alleyne’s High School in Uttoxeter. Music was provided Chapter 7, the local band who were the winners of this year’s Staffordshire Rocks competition. See their winning performance here.

I have also taken delivery of a new tractor, which I’m very proud to say was manufactured in the UK. It will be put to some very hard work over the coming weeks as harvest gets into full swing.

Meeting the challenge

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

It’s been a busy and demanding week with decisions continuing to flow from the new Coalition Government.

Cabinet yesterday discussed how we would meet our greatest challenge – saving £120 million from our budget over the next three years.

This represents a 30 per cent saving over 3 years but is our crucial contribution to reducing the national debt.

This is a challenge we are determined to meet head-on and we are in a good position. We can do it by finding new ways of working that provides support for residents that is appropriate and affordable. It will need a culture change and we will keep our staff involved throughout this process.

We took the first step today at Full Council when I announced the restructuring of our senior leadership team.

I intend the process of recruiting the Senior Leadership Team, as far as possible, to be completed by the end of August – time is of the essence.

A special committee of the County Council will oversee this process. A promise to tax payers is that the cost of senior management will fall as a result.

I would like to thank our colleagues from Newcastle Borough Council for hosting today’s Full Council while work is ongoing in the council chamber at County Buildings. I’d particularly like to thank County Councillor Simon Tagg who is also Leader of NBC.

For north of Birmingham read “centre of the country”

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The scrapping of regional development agencies, including Advantage west Midlands, was one of the big talking points at last week’s Local Government Association conference.

Local authorities will now have a pivotal role in the development of economic development across the region.

We are working with our local authority partners to work on their successors – Local Enterprise Partnerships. I’ve already met with the leaders of all the regional shire authorities to discuss this and other matters. And on Thursday of this week I’m meeting the leaders of all authorities within Staffordshire.

But the partnerships won’t just be about local authorities. Businesses and education providers, including our universities will also be integral.

The partnership for Staffordshire will need to be a powerful coalition with fluid borders to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. In the AWM days Staffordshire was north of Birmingham – now we’re at the centre of the country.

On the homestead, meanwhile, we are preparing for the harvest. Rape seed oil harvesting begins in late July so there are some late nights ahead.

On the front foot

Friday, July 9th, 2010

The last few days have been pretty busy and today has been no different at the Local Government Association annual conference in Bournemouth.

Not only has it been interesting to meet my counterparts from around the country and share ideas but it has also been good to gain a sense of how other organisations are reacting to the changes in central government.

It was especially interesting to speak to Secretary of State Eric Pickles and Helen Bailey who is Director of Public Services at the Treasury about their views on the road ahead for local government.

It will come as no surprise that the financial challenges that lie ahead were top of the agenda and it is clear that these will be challenges that everyone around the country will face over the coming months.

The workshops and discussion emphasised more than ever the need for local government to prove their worth. I must admit the continuous talk of ‘hard times’ can dampen morale but I am keen to use the current situation as a real opportunity to work efficiently and effectively and show taxpayers in Staffordshire that we can still provide quality services and value for money.

After speaking to many peers at the conference it is clear that Staffordshire is ahead of the game due to some early foresight and having sound financial systems in place.

This week has been very useful but it’s back to my farm this weekend. I must say the weather is fantastic but I could probably do with a bit of overnight rain for my land!

Out on the road for Staffordshire

Monday, July 5th, 2010

For most of this week I’ll be working for Staffordshire but out of the county.

Tomorrow I’m travelling to London with our Chief Executive, Nick Bell. There we will be meeting up with all nine of the county’s MPs.

Significantly six of these are newcomers to Parliament, having first been elected during June’s General Election. It is crucial that we have a good working relationship with our representatives in Westminster and meetings like this are important in exchanging information so we can stand up for Staffordshire.

We will be talking over a wide range of issues, ranging from proposals to cut some of our Magistrates and County Courts to issues which have been identified by MPs such as the state of local roads.

Following our MPs meeting in London we will be travelling on to Bournemouth to attend this year’s annual conference of the Local Government Association.

The economy, unsurprisingly, will be the focus of much attention at conference this year.

Conference is an excellent opportunity to discuss challenges and exchange ideas, not only with others from the world of local government, but also from central government, business and other partners.

I will send updates from conference later in the week.