Archive for March, 2012

Some highlights from our March Cabinet meeting

Monday, March 26th, 2012

We will be pump priming superfast broadband to 90% of Staffordshire by 2015 with £7.5m, levering in up to £100m in private investment.  By the end of 2012 we will have chosen a provider and we will be leading a major project in spring next year.  Faster broadband will give all of us better opportunities to access employment, education, health, social, and leisure services as well as boosting the local economy. 

Our Education Support Service programme will see the county council working with a private sector company to deliver services including ICT, grounds maintenance and catering to the county’s schools.  Without change the service would decline and this will help secure 5,000 jobs and allow the council to deliver more cost effective and better quality services from 2015 onwards.

While we have pledged to keep subsidising travel for school and college students from low income families or who have disabilities.  We are encouraging other 11-19 year olds to use the award winning Your Staffordshire Card to get around the county for just £1.  These changes mean we can still target help to those most in need, save nearly £700,000 in two years which can help with reducing the debt pressure, or towards reinvestment in other services.

We will be offering a ‘rural premium’ to people who receive a direct payment to fund their care.  This will help bridge the gap of higher care costs in some remote areas which we know is the case.  This will give people more choice and control over the services they receive.

It was also great to hear Staffordshire mentioned in the national news for its adoption and fostering service.  We have been praised this week for placing children into fostering families almost twice as fast as the national average.  We all owe a big thanks to our teams and the fostering families across the county and if you get a chance please praise them for their great work.

Finally, a big ‘congratulations’ to all our inspirational Torch Bearers who will be carrying the Olympic Torch through the county on its way to London for the Games.  I’ve already met a few and some of the stories of personal achievements and triumphs they have are incredible.  Let’s make sure that we are all out on the streets on 30 May and 30 June to cheer them on.

A time to celebrate

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Spring really is here! The crocus and snowdrops are out now, so not long for summer! spring flowers
And what a summer it’s going to be.

You don’t need me to remind you but here are three words you’ve heard me talking about for a while now: ‘Diamond Jubilee’ and ‘Olympics’.

The 2 Big Events of the Year are getting closer and closer and the chances of seeing another double event like these in the same year is unlikely, at least not in this millennium.

We want everyone in Staffordshire to enjoy this fantastic summer of celebrations and with my leaders hat on, we want to make it as easy and straight forward for people to do this.

The County Council has pledged to cut any red tape and are giving the green light to events such as street parties, tree planting and any other ways people want to celebrate these special events.

We want people to enjoy this national celebration and be able to organise their own parties without unnecessary checks.

Our job as a council is not to stand in people’s way but to give them the advice and help they need to do things like plant trees, hold street parties and generally have fun celebrating this momentous year.

And we are kick starting the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by offering the chance for 60 families of up to 5 people  to have their own ‘Diamond Jubilee Big Lunch’ and enjoy a day out at Shugborough Hall Estate on Sunday 3rd June.  You can apply for tickets on www.staffordshire.gov.uk/diamondjubilee 

Also looking forward to big things this year, I met up with David Sheepshanks, Chairman of St George’s Park, to talk about how the county council can help and work with the new FA Centre in Burton.  As its now been 1 year 1 month and 1 week since work started on it, we want to welcome it into our local community, ready for its opening later this year.

Nature can be a strange thing and while the seasons are bringing summer warmth, there is worrying news for livestock farmers. Veterinary experts met in London for a briefing called by AHVLA (Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency) about the Schmallenberg virus and how it could progress in UK, the disease is thought to have been brought into the UK from infected midges blown across the Channel and can cause birth defects and miscarriages in livestock, it’s not a risk to public health but a worrying time for livestock farmers.

Spring is in the air

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Last week has been a busy week of celebrations for me.  I have been to the ‘All About You’ Awards, The LGIU Awards and also, the lambing season has arrived!

The ‘All About You’ Awards is Staffordshire County Council’s staff award scheme to congratulate winning individuals and teams for their hard work and extra effort that they put in beyond the call of day to day work.  We have been recognising the great work that they do, with many stories of exceptional unsung public service.

I’ve been down to London and was amongst some far more worthy names than myself, for the LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) Awards. I was honoured to say that I was short listed as Leader of the Year!  But well done to Shona Johnstone for winning the Sandy Bruce Lockhart Scholarship and Sir Richard Leese who scooped Leader of the Year Award for his work leading the rebuilding of Manchester centre after the 1996 IRA bomb . It was great to be there – a fantastic day!

I also spent an hour sitting in with our customer service team in the new Staffordshire Place, which was quite eye opening.  Here I saw polite and efficient staff dealing with a wide variety of calls. It really was spot on!  I’m sure that they said in one month they took around 26,000 calls – wow!

And a little more good news, the Staffordshire Local Government Pension Scheme is now valued at £2,718,863,593, meaning it’s up by £300m since September. It shows the asset allocation really does work!

Sheep with their lambs

And finally on the farming front, lambing has started! 23 ewes with 34 lambs so far and thankfully no sign of Schmallenberg Disease, which is worrying many shepherds.