Archive for March, 2011

Spring brings in a new start

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Spring is all about recovery and rebirth and there is plenty of that in evidence at the moment. 

I have just about finished lambing on the farm, which is always a busy time. 

As you may know I live very close to JCB’s HQ in Rocester. There the shoots of recovery are very much in evidence too. A 10-acre lot is reserved for completed vehicles awaiting export. Six months ago it was empty. It is currently full, and JCB have been hiring. It’s a welcome sign that that our manufacturing economy is recovering. 

Meanwhile I recently officially opened Shugborough Revisted. Staffordshire County Council has managed Shugborough as a tourism and cultural attraction since 1966. But Revisited adds an entirely new dimension to the offering. The former private apartments of Lord Lichfield are now open for the first time, giving a unique insight into the private life of one of the most iconic figures of the swinging sixties.

The island arboretum, which covers a significant portion of the estate is also open for the first time. It is a fantastic new beginning for Staffordshire’s finest stately home. I hope it tempts many more people to visit and enjoy our county.

Salami slicing just doesn’t cut it

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I’ve attended a round-table discussion at the Local Government Association (LGA) in London on one of the biggest challenges facing our society – the long-term funding of care and support

It was to discuss the latest thinking on an issue that will only become bigger as our population continues to age.

It was an opportunity to influence the Commission on Funding of Care and Support which will produce an important review for the Government this summer and to help inform one of the most crucial public policy debates of our time.

At Staffordshire County Council there has been an enormous amount of effort put into dealing with these challenges. So far we have squarely taken the view that it is important to maintain the level of these services and explore the best way of fully funding them.

Other authorities have taken a different attitude and prefer the salami-slicing approach.

Councillors rail against environmental and economic damage

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The county council recently took the important decision to oppose Government proposals for a high speed rail terminating in Staffordshire

The clear consensus among councillors at Staffordshire County Council is opposition due to concerns about the devastating environmental impact and the potential harm to our economy. Many people don’t realise that existing mainline train services from our county would suffer.

This is an important issue for all Staffordshire residents. While the HS2 line ends in the south of the county, any subsequent HS3 line would cut through the rest to the north through the Trent Valley.

We believe an urgent national debate needs to take place on better ways of improving our transport infrastructure for the good of the entire economy.

Hutton report is welcomed

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

I welcome Will Hutton’s report into public sector salaries. It recognises the need to recruit and retain people of the right caliber to crucial jobs in local government that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

These are not jobs that can be carried out by people without the relevant experience, expertise and aptitude. As the Leader of Staffordshire County Council I wouldn’t want to be responsible for making crucial decisions without the support and advice of senior officers with these attributes.

Hutton also noted that top salaries in the public sector are far lower than in the private sector, largely due to the vocational nature of the role.

I know that the yardstick for measuring public sector pay has become the salary paid to the Prime Minister, but this really is totally misleading. For a level playing field you should maybe compare the top salaries at a county like Staffordshire against district or metropolitan authorities.

The recommendations of performance related pay are also worthy of serious consideration.

I’m just off to Birmingham now for a meeting of West Midlands Councils. Cabinet tomorrow and the big debate on HS2 at Full Council on Thursday.

LEPs to build economic growth

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I was part of the Staffordshire delegation that attended this week’s LEP summit at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The event was attended by Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy PM Nick Clegg  and Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’s Local Enterprise Partnership is currently seeking three new board members as the organisation reaches its next phase following approval by Government last October.

The LEP is looking for dedicated people with a love of Staffordshire who can bring their business and geographical experience to the table and help to develop its priorities. This passion for local business development from local business people is what will really drive the LEP forward.

The Prime Minister made it clear on Monday that LEPs are fundamental to local economic growth and that power needs to shift from Whitehall to local business leaders who know the barriers to growth in their area.

That is a agenda that is fully supported by Staffordshire County Council.