Archive for September, 2010

Together we can…

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Residents will find the latest edition of YS magazine dropping through their letterboxes soon.

This edition focuses on how the county council is committed to providing all taxpayers with improved value-for-money. We’ve also set up an area of our website dedicate to value-for-money studies.

And we’ve also reduced the cost of this edition of the magazine by 20 per cent. We know that people value the publication, but we want us to deliver it as economically as possible.

On Wednesday night I attended an event organised by the county council at Shugborough called The Staffordshire Hundred.

It brought together leading members of the Staffordshire Strategic Partnership from the public, private and voluntary sectors. It was a good opportunity for us to review our key priorities for Staffordshire and our commitment to working together. There will be action that follows this event.

I opened the event and I’d like to thank David Moorcroft OBE, the former world record 5,000 metre runner and Chief executive of UK Athletics who was there as guest speaker. David was there in his capacity of chair of the West Midlands Leadership Group for the 2012 Games.

Mike Cunningham, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire, completed the speakers.

And the name “Hundred”? It refers to the ancient subdivision of shire counties, and the way people with a joint interest came together co-operatively. It’s Saxon in origin, and particularly apt as today is the anniversary of the Staffordshire Hoard being declared treasure trove.

Topping Out Tipping Street

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We reached a symbolic milestone with our new Tipping Street development today when I performed a brief “topping out” ceremony with my Cabinet colleague Mark Winnington.

Topping out means we’ve now got the roof on. And it is a great achievement if you remember that the site was still a car park this time last year.

The project can’t be completed soon enough as far as I’m concerned. It will allow the county council to embrace truly modern working practices that we simply can’t in our existing accommodation that is scattered around the Stafford area.

It will save us over £250,000 per year in operating costs alone because we will be leaving 18 buildings that are old, inefficient and require constant maintenance. It would be difficult to contemplate meeting the spending challenges ahead without the modern and efficient infrastructure the Tipping Street development represents.

 Mark and I are both farmers, so we obviously have a lot in common. But it was only today that I discovered that the Cabinet Member for Assets, Performance and Organisation is afraid of heights.

Another week another Question Time

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Question Time events are all the rage at the moment, most linked to the current spending review.

Last week it was the BBC’s state of the region. Today I’m at another event at more grassroots level.

It is organised by the think-tank Reform and is being held at the Premier Suite, Cannock.

Panelists who will be joining me include Aidan Burley, Cannock Chase’s MP, Douglas Paxton, the Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire and a number of local business figures and heads of public sector organisations.

It’s an excellent opportunity for the people of Cannock Chase to have their say on how we should go forward in light of the challenges we face and really make a positive difference to the district’s future.

I’m told that tickets are still available. If you’re interested please contact 020 7324 4330, or email natasha.mcdonough@policyreviewtv

Question time for the Midlands

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Later today I’m appearing on the BBC’s live state of the region debate on the forthcoming spending review.

 The regional programme appears in the Question Time slot on BBC1 at 10.35pm and is hosted by Midlands Today’s Nick Owen.

It is sure to be a lively debate. I am going into it in a positive frame of mind. Looking at the list of members of the invited audience I know some of them will not be.

I’ve said it many times already. The need to cut the awful level of national debt is paramount, but we also have unparalleled opportunities to reform public service delivery. The BBC have told us they want the debate to be focussed on the future, and that is certainly the direction I hope to take it.

 Midlands Today’s Twitter followers are being invited to engage with the programme in a similar way that Question Time’s interactive audience does so successfully.

 Midlands Today’s Twitter name is @bbcmtd and debate tweets should have the #mtd hashtag. I don’t Tweet yet, but I’m hoping that if you do you’ll know what that means and will join in the debate.

 Those of you who do tune in tonight will have the chance to see the head wound I’m currently sporting after an accident working with machinery on the farm at the weekend.

It looks worse than it is – just a few cuts. When I blogged a few weeks ago about how dangerous farming could be, I hadn’t intended nearly becoming one of the statistics myself.

 It’s a lesson learned the hard way.

Westminster calling

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Today I’m in Westminster at the Local Government Association (LGA).

It’s my induction into the Executive of the Local Government Group.

I will represent not only Staffordshire, but the West Midlands region on the Executive in my capacity of Chairman of West Midlands Councils.

The LGA represents 422 councils from across England and Wales, and speaks on behalf of local government to central Government. I will sit on the Economy and Transport Board, and as you can probably tell from previous blog entries this is one of my great passions.

The board is responsible for developing strategic policy on transport, economic development, business support, regeneration and job creation and skills. Local government must be a key player in bringing the economy out of the recession so this is exciting work.

We are carrying out excellent work on modernising the way councils do business in Staffordshire and the LGA is the best place to share this, and pick up on the best ideas coming from other local authorities. It is also a very convenient place to push the case for the regions to ministers and secretaries of state.

This will not mean I’ll be neglecting Staffordshire. My regular commitment will be to be down in Westminster for a day a month, and I’ll be acting as an ambassador for our county.

New skills on the horizon

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I hope everyone had a good Bank Holiday weekend.

Thank goodness the weather took a turn for the better. It meant we could make some progress with the harvest after an otherwise wet and frustrating August.

On Friday I did have time to visit the new JCB Academy which is in my own Uttoxeter Rural division.

“Absolutely fabulous” is the only way to describe the transformation of the Arkwright and Tudor mill in Rocester. Villagers were invited to an exclusive preview after 18 months of building work.

Children start at the new Academy later this month. It was conceived from Sir Anthony Bamford’s insight into the need for engineering and manufacturing skills.

 If our economy is to be competitive these are exactly the skills we need.