Archive for February, 2011

Rubbing shoulders with royalty

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

I have been rubbing shoulders with royalty recently. I attended the official opening by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall of the JCB Academy in Rocester.

The academy is in my Uttoxeter Rural division, so I have been involved in its development from the start. 

A wonderful job has been done of transforming an historic old mill building at the centre of the village. Even more important however is the centre of excellence we now have for young people interested in engineering and business leadership.

I also met the Prince of Wales at St James’s Palace for a meeting of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust. The trust is particularly active in the field of restoring heritage building, so there is a direct link with the JCB Academy.

Keeping costs low for Staffordshire residents

Friday, February 18th, 2011

While there is never a quiet time as Leader of Staffordshire County Council, now is the time of year when the spotlight shines most brightly on our work.

Decisions have to be made about services and council tax levels for the coming financial year, making February an extremely busy month for the council’s Cabinet.

I am pleased to be able to tell you that after the lowest council tax rise ever last year at 1.9 per cent, your county council has set a zero per cent Council Tax rise for 2011/12.  We were the first large council in the country to commit to a Council Tax freeze and this has been made possible by strong financial management.

We are acutely aware that the global economic downturn has hit many people hard and we hope that we can do our bit to help families plan a stable financial future by keeping Council Tax as low as possible. Staffordshire’s county Council Tax is the third lowest in the country.

At the same time, everyone at the county council is working hard to ensure that services are continually improved.

I was delighted, therefore, that the Cabinet were able to bring forward plans for the Your Staffordshire card which allows all young people aged 19 and under to travel anywhere in the county on local buses for £1.

 We also agreed the over 60 concessionary fare scheme should be 24 hours, seven days a week in Staffordshire instead of just off peak times and to keep the subsidies on socially desirable routes. We are also keeping all of our libraries open and extending their opening hours with free internet access making them real community hubs.

 There has been much national debate about the Big Society. I am pleased to say that it is already alive and kicking in Staffordshire and Cabinet members were told of a great scheme in Marchington where residents have come together to help the community thrive by reopening a village shop.

A sporting county

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Encouraging people to keep fit and healthy is an important part of our role here at Staffordshire County Council.

It was good, therefore, for me to get the chance to meet with Baroness Sue Campbell, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust, at the House of Lords.

Clearly, Staffordshire County Council has a big part to play on the sporting front, not least because of our role around education.

School sport became the subject of much national debate when Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, announced changes to the School Sport Partnership late last year.

I was able to tell Baroness Campbell that here in Staffordshire, we see a bright future and are confident we can get more and more people taking part in sport.

While the School Sport Partnership led to some improvement in participation, the impact was patchy and did not lead to either a significant increase in the number of people enjoying sport in the wider community, or to a greater use of community sports facilities in schools.

Staffordshire County Council sees sport and healthy lifestyles as fundamental.  We plan to take the best bits of the School Sport Partnership and join them up with leisure centres and sports clubs.

 In this way, we believe that we can significantly increase the number of people enjoying sport and providing more players, gymnasts and athletes for the many clubs run by volunteers which actually provide the vast majority of sporting opportunities for Staffordshire residents.