Archive for August, 2010

500 Knot out

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Hi folks, we are approaching a couple of anniversary’s  – one more recent than the last, but both steeped in history.

It is almost a year since the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard was announced.

This is without doubt the most important archaeological discovery in Britain of recent decades. It captured the imagination of the world and sparked a terrific fundraising campaign.

Most people think this campaign was successfully concluded when the Hoard was officially acquired from Fred Johnson, the landowner, and Terry Herbert, the finder.

That isn’t where the fundraising finishes however. We still need to raise money for the conservation and interpretation – that is the bit that will actually put the Hoard on display.

Work is still ongoing and you can expect it to get a higher profile as the anniversary on September 24 gets closer. The Hoard is now in the ownership of the Museums and Art Galleries of Birmingham Museums and Stoke-on-Trent. It will however go on public display in Staffordshire and plan to do this are advancing.

The second anniversary is the 500th anniversary of the Stafford Knot which is being celebrated by the Staffordshire Regimental Museum next month. Take a look here

This is excellent. One of the first things we decided to do following last year’s election was to reinstate the Knot as the symbol of the County Council, along with the traditional motto of The Knot Unites. It really does engender a sense of pride and unites a county that is in many other ways incredibly diverse.

 The new JCB Academy is holding an open day today which I’m looking forward to attending.

 I’ll update you on what I thought in my next entry.

Putting in the fieldwork

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

We have just finished Cabinet. Traditionally August is a quiet month in local government, but we had a full agenda with the LEP and school transport up for discussion among other things.

I’m about to give an interview with Midlands Today on the coalition Government’s first 100 days in Government. They’re talking to me not just in my capacity of Leader of the county council, but also as Chairman of the West Midlands Councils, which is itself a coalition of all 33 local authorities in the region. Economic regeneration is going to be the key theme – particularly life after Advantage West Midlands

Harvest is progressing well with all the oilseed rape gathered in and I have made a start on the wheat harvest. While we have had little rain this summer which has affected yields, some of my fields can flood in winter. Rising food prices are in the news with droughts and fires in the Ukraine and Russia leading to a ban on their wheat exports and a meteoric rise in the price of wheat.

Mother Nature cannot be ignored and has a way of biting back. Our thoughts must also be with those affected by the floods in Pakistan. Many residents in Burton and Stafford will have relatives who still live there.

So while we still have food in our shops and crops in our fields, please think of those who have nothing to eat or drink. The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) are raising funds at this link or you can send a cheque to DEC PAKISTAN FLOODS APPEAL and post it to DEC PAKISTAN FLOODS APPEAL, PO BOX 999, LONDON, EC3A 3AA

Learning from the best

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I met with Noreen Oliver, the inspiration behind the pioneering Burton Addiction Centre, today.

 It’s the first time we’ve met since she received her lifetime achievement award from Iain Duncan Smith in his capacity as founder of the Centre for Social Justice.

 The award is well deserved. Noreen has built up the centres (there’s another in Newcastle-under-Lyme) from nothing. Her enthusiasm and passion has helped transform the lives of many people who have escaped from the horrible clutch of addiction.

 She has worked tirelessly and is now a recognised leader in the field. Staffordshire County Council has worked closely with BAC, and this has included finding work placements for people receiving their help.

 Noreen is a fantastic example of how people can use their own experiences and their own initiative to help others and as an authority we can learn from her example.

 Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the East Staffordshire Connecting Communities Festival, at which I was invited to say a few words before events got underway.

It was organised by East Staffs Racial Equality Council and was a wonderful showcase of how ethnically diverse the Burton area is.

 While I was there I also had the pleasure of meeting people from Burton Hospitals who were recruiting volunteers for the foundation trust. I also found out more about the support that is available for people from the varying ethnic communities who have made their homes in East Staffordshire.

In the national arena

Friday, August 6th, 2010

On Wednesday I attended an event in Birmingham hosted by David Cameron for local business and government leaders.

I discussed our Tipping Street development with Caroline Spellman MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Tipping Street will help transform the way we deliver services through modern and flexible ways of working – and after a root and branch review of the project last year, it has become an investment that will save money in the long-term and be a catalyst for increased value-for-money. We simply can’t adopt some of the modern working practices we need in our existing antiquated buildings.

I’ve also been to Stoke-on-Trent City Council to discuss Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – sorry about mentioning them again, but they are important. I’m spending so much time in the Potteries recently that I pulled their leg and asked them for my own car parking space and office! Stoke-on-Trent is a crucial sub-regional partner for us along with all our own existing partners across the whole county, and the economic wellbeing of the city and the county are inextricably linked. Stoke City Council agreed last night to enter into detailed discussions with neighbouring Councils and businesses with a view to agreeing a Local Enterprise Partnership.

As I’ve mentioned before, LEPs will have to defy convention if they’re to bring results and our county’s boundaries are porous and definitely not impermeable.  We are already working with developing strategic alliances with neighbouring partners in the Black Country, Cheshire and Derbyshire for the express purpose of securing private sector growth and jobs.

The private sector will be crucial to make LEPs work. We have begun the hunt for a chairman for our LEP. The ideal candidate will be a captain of industry of national of international standing who will be an ambassador for our county at home and abroad.

I’ve been also talking to Trent and Dove Housing Association about ExtraCare projects in Burton and Uttoxeter. ExtraCare is helping more elderly people live independently with easy access to the support they may need, and the projects already running in Staffordshire have been a great success.

Harvest time patience

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Harvest time is upon us, so I’ll be working exceptionally long hours juggling business on the farm with my county council responsibilities.

Staffordshire farm still produce a considerable portion of the county’s employment and I would like to make a seasonal plea on behalf of the agricultural community. Please be patient if you find yourself behind a tractor or combine harvester on the roads.
Have patience this Harvest
Most people outside the industry don’t realise the demands. Farming is the country’s most dangerous industry with 8.2 workers killed per 100,000 every year. Last year three workers were tragically killed in Staffordshire.

Latest statistics released by HSE reveal a dramatic increase in farm fatalities. 38 farm workers were killed last year, an increase of 50 per cent% on the previous year.

With harvest underway, long hours and the risk of an accident increases dramatically.

It is not enough to just take extra care; the main task is to bring the harvest home safely and without incident.

So when you see a slow moving machine just be aware of the pressures involved.