Archive for February, 2012

A busy month…

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Just a few quick updates on what’s been happening lately.

In the middle of February I got the chance to meet some young people on the county council’s apprenticeship scheme, it was great to listen to their experiences and hear their aspirations for the future as part of a celebratory event we put together for National Apprenticeship Week.

And talking of budding young apprentices, last week I was talking to Lord Sugar’s first Apprentice; Tim Campbell from the Bright Ideas Trust, about helping young people start up businesses.

I have also been talking politics to some of our latest recruits at a staff induction training day as well as welcoming them to the organisation.

Talking of welcomes.  I would like to welcome aboard Neal Podmore after a conservative win in Leek South by election. This now makes us 50 Conservatives on the Council.

As well as being record breakingly ‘hot’ this February has seen the all important announcement of our next Lord-Lieutenant.  I want to thank Sir James Hawley who has served for the last 18 years and retires in March, and welcome Ian Dudson as his successor.

Red Diesel News… as a farmer myself, I was pleased to hear that farmers can now use red diesel in gritters, as HM Revenue and Customs relaxed their rules on the use of red diesel. This rids us of another bit of bureaucracy!

You may have already heard this but we are hoping to attract a further 2,500 jobs to the county through the development of a brand new business park at Redhill, outside Stafford. This continues our focus on the economy.

On an arts theme.  Worth a visit is Cecil Beaton’s photo exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum in the capital.  It offers a real insight into HM Elizabeth II in her 60th year and shows her as a real family person.

Something else I am proud of and excited about is the ‘President’, the world’s only surviving steam powered narrow boat, which will be flying the flag for Staffordshire in the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant on 3 June.

The boat, partly built in Staffordshire will be making a 336 mile long journey to London.Steam Powered Boat - President  The project is being sponsored by major Staffordshire businesses JCB, Michelin, Wedgwood and St. Modwen.  It will make three stops in Staffordshire: Festival Park, Stone and Fradley before joining the Grand Union Canal.

At 71ft the journey is expected to take around three weeks, travelling at a very relaxing three miles per hour and arriving in London at the end of May. ‘President’ will then join the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant as part of a seven-mile long procession of Dunkirk little ships, historic vessels, steam boats and tugs, with the royal barge at its centre.

It should make us all feel proud that a part of Staffordshire will be there to celebrate with The Queen on her Diamond Jubilee.

We need your help…

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Sometimes we need your help and you may be able to help us with this one.

We are looking for someone to Chair Engaging Communities Staffordshire, which is a brand new independent organisation for the county to handle all public feedback on health and social care services.  It’s a great opportunity to be part of something totally groundbreaking which will improve outcomes for people in Staffordshire.

You may already be aware of this but in less than two months Engaging Communities Staffordshire will be launched.  This is a new and innovative people lead organisation which will pull together and co-ordinate public feedback on the quality of health and care services across Staffordshire.

Over 2,300 people took part in the recent public consultation on the initiative with 9 out of every 10 respondents giving the thumbs up to the idea of creating an independent organisation to support people accessing health and social care services.

Now we want to turn this proposal into a reality and are looking for an exceptional person to chair the organisation.  Does this sound like you?  Or someone you know?  Help us spread the word…

We are looking for someone with a strong ethos of Public Service who will oversee the recruitment of a voluntary Board as well as supporting the work required to formally establish the new social enterprise for a launch in April.  The right person will be instrumental in shaping the organisation; including appointing the first Chief Executive and will need to bring a range of board level skills and experience including facilitation, business acumen, performance management, relationship building and change management.

Anyone interested in applying for this high profile position can find out more about the independent appointment process at www.engagingcommunitiesstaffordshire.co.uk or call Kate Waterhouse, Head of Customer Insight on 01785 277893 for an informal discussion about the role.  Other non-executive roles will also be available in due course.  Findings from the consultation are also available on the website.

Please help us to find the right person to make Engaging Communities Staffordshire a success.

Budget news

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Having just come out of the county council meeting, I wanted to update you all on a couple of the things we talked about – some of our headline announcements and real outcomes.

Firstly, we have just signed off our 2012/13 Budget, “a budget for jobs and prosperity,” to protect vital services and to save you taxpayers some money, which we know you like.

This budget is good for Staffordshire and is not about reducing services.   It’s about doing things differently and providing services in a more intelligent, tailored and cost effective way.

For the third year in a row we will be freezing council tax, and we are putting more money into things we know you care about, like the local economy and the county’s roads. We’re also changing the delivery of social care services, and changing them for the better.

We spend a massive £1.3 billion a year on all sorts of services, education,road maintenance, social care and libraries to name a few.

And in the last five years we saved £100 million, giving residents the best possible value for their council tax.  Again, most of these savings made through smarter working, innovation and new technology, and through delivering services differently and in partnership with other organisations.

Good news for road users as well.  You may have already heard this but we will be investing an extra £20 million into improving our footpaths and roadsover the next two years.  This is because we know that keeping your roads in good condition is important to you.  Better roads are also good for our local economy, keeping everyone on the move.  We have been able to do thispartly because of savings made in selling off 17 old council buildings and moving staff into our new environmentally friendly Staffordshire Place buildings.

Looking a bit further ahead we have also identified further savings of £97 million which will take us up to 2017.

And finally even after all this hard work, we are freezing our allowances for the fourth year in a row in recognition of our staff not having had a pay rise, the state of the economy and our residents’ expectations.

Breakfast with the minister

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

I have always said there is no better way to reach anyone’s heart than through their stomach. And last Friday I enjoyed a real taste of Staffordshire at the Great British Breakfast event organised by Staffordshire Rural Hub and Taste of Staffordshire brand at the Staffordshire County Showground.

I got the chance to mingle with some of the counties top food producers and most enthusiastic consumers at our annual fixture on the foodie calendar.

Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also attended, and I’m sure she left Staffordshire with a delicious understanding of just how important and central the farming and food industry are to Staffordshire’s prosperity and quality of life.

The county council is dedicated to helping all businesses to grow, including our rural sector. Farming and food is a big slice of our local economy and it is initiatives like Taste of Staffordshire and Made in Staffordshire that are playing a full part in marketing Staffordshire to the world.

See you there next year!