Archive for April, 2012

Fields of Yellow

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Oilseed rape fieldWon’t be long before my crops join 400,000 hectares of oilseed rape across the UK in turning into fields of bright yellow. This crop goes into spreads for your bread and other oils. 

Well done to Rakemark for their great work over the last year, now the Staffordshire respite centre that offers care for children with special needs during school holidays, in my own village of Rocester, is to attract new backers.

Good hockey news for Staffordshire as The Pakistan Hockey Federation has selected Cannock Hockey Club to fine tune for the Olympic Games. Pakistan and Team GB will be in the same group in the games. Exciting games ahead!

Good news also from family-owned and Rocester-based JCB unveiling record revenues and profits; we’re also looking forward to Jaguar Landrover i54 South Staffordshire site adding to our growing local economy when it is up and running.

And a few things from Cabinet last week and the fourth quarter report:  the Burton school places strategy will deliver the 1,000 places needed to ensure quality education for children in 2013.

Our decision on investing in Super Fast Broadband across the county has been hailed as ‘great news’ by the Chamber of Commerce.

And we could be saving £20 million by backing a radical review of public sector property, all good news for Staffordshire.

PresidentFinally Bon voyage.  We waved off the President narrow boat on her 300 mile journey to London as she flies the Staffordshire flag in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Thames Pageant on 3 June.  I hope many of you got the chance to see her off.  She made three canal side stops at the Etruria Industrial Museum on 20 April, Stone on 21 April and Fradley Junction on 22 April before leaving the county on her historic journey.  We’ll be watching out for her during the Pageant, so good luck to the crew and skipper.

Help to Fight the Fakes

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I quit smoking years ago and would encourage residents to do the same.

As a council we are asking members of the public to ‘Fight the Fakes’ by helping to both recognise and report fake tobacco.

A campaign to get people reporting sales of counterfeit cigarettes is now live in Uxbridge, Stapenhill and Winshill in Burton, and health colleagues are being asked to support the campaign. 

Illicit tobacco can entice young people to smoke because of its lower cost, and depending on where it is sold, the lack of age checks. Dangers of illicit tobacco include higher levels of nicotine, more harmful carbon monoxide and an unhealthy mixture of chemicals including arsenic, cadium, benzene and formaldehyde.

Signs that tobacco may be illicit include: 

  • Unusually priced
  • Unusual texture or taste 
  • Lower quality packaging
  • No picture health warning
  • Individually sold cigarettes
  • Spelling mistakes or altered logos
  • Foreign safety warnings or no safety warning at all
  • Foreign brand names or imitations of popular brands   
  • They are more likely to be sold away from shops to make them harder to trace the seller

Those caught selling illegal tobacco could face up to ten years in prison, an unlimited fine, confiscation of their illegal products and seizure of the proceeds of their crime.  It could be shop keepers, pubs and clubs or individuals selling fake tobacco.

Call the fakes hotline, anonymously on  01785 330356 if you have any information, or go to www.staffordshire.gov.uk/fakes

Out and about

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I certainly enjoyed my long Easter weekend, and my good deed for the holiday was to plough Rocester’s allotments on the old railway line ready for people to go planting, and I only managed to break one plough part.

Not yet half way through April and I have already allocated £2,600 of my £10,000 of Staffordshire Local Community Fund! I think this is a really great way to encourage, help and support worthy local projects, and I am looking forward to continuing to do so.

Last week I got the chance to hear the concerns of Stramshall residents about the proposed 87 meter tall wind turbine at the Uttoxeter Quarry. Along with Aggregate Industries, the owner’s of the quarry, who wanted local resident’s views on the proposed single wind turbine on the site before a planning application is submitted to Staffordshire County Council. It would have a massive impact on the town, the valley and the countryside around it.

From renewable energy to research and development, I got to meet with Professor Mike Gunn, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Staffordshire University to talk to him about our common interests and how we as a council along with the university can create more opportunities for young people with research and development.

Social media has become a force to be reckoned with, and as a blogger and a tweeter myself it was interesting to hear from Staffordshire Police Authority about how the Police use social media to keep residents informed.

And to end on a more indulgent note, the fish and chips at the Yorkshireman at Colton which won a Taste of Staffordshire Award really are fantastic! And topped off with a glass of Bagot Bitter, it made Good Friday a really, really good Friday.

Where has the snow come from?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I think we all preferred the surprisingly hot weather of last week.  Well at least we are prepared and have plenty of grit left for next year and our highways teams worked extremely hard to keep the roads clear for us.

During my trip to Westminster last week I heard about Localism and Open Public Services, whilst listening to other local authority’s experiences of delivering different, better and cheaper public services at scale in the modern world.

This week the Planning Minister Greg Clark announced a new, simplified planning framework, with new laws set to strike a balance between protecting the environment and helping to deliver jobs which is a good move.

We already work closely with our local planning authorities to ensure we are doing all we can to make planning applications for business, leisure and community infrastructure run as smoothly as possible.  For example, recently we have worked with South Staffordshire Council on Jaguar Land Rover’s planned engine plant and Lichfield District Council on the Roxane mineral water development.

After two successful open days last autumn at our county farms, we are now looking for rural entrepeneurs; highly motivated and prospective tenants with ambition and a desire to develop an agricultural, equine or other rural business. We want applicants to show us how they could turn a farm holding into something more, adding in higher value for their produce, or a tourism offer to give the income a boost. The next holding near Eccleshall would be ideal for someone hoping to either start up a professional equine business, an agricultural business or an alternative rural enterprise to help the rural economy thrive.

As a county council we value our farm holdings, and I particularly want to see the most made of the farms here in Staffordshire. I’m proud to say we are recognised as a national leader in terms of running county farms. And we want to keep it that way.

Last Friday night I was at Alton Towers saluting the Volunteer Staffordshire Award nominees and winners, as they were rightly recognised for the time and effort they put in to helping others.  The new Lord Lieutenant performed his first official duty and we were entertained by the brilliant Staffordshire Youth Jazz Orchestra. And I’ve also been to the annual All About You Awards to celebrate and recognise Staffordshire County Council staff who have gone the extra mile.  Both award ceremonies made me very proud of the efforts of Staffordshire people.

Spring forward; fall back

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

…for lighter nights and darker mornings, and who’s feeling that missed hour of sleep since last weekend??

And what a start to spring, Staffordshire County Council past & present members honoured Sir James Hawley KCVO for his 19 years service as Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire. But as much as we want to commemorate the work that hasStaffordshire Hundred been done, we’re certainly looking to the future.

The debate at the Staffordshire Hundred event got hot when topics such as youth unemployment, elderly care, and much more were debated, as well as the key partnership issues of the day.

And two weeks ago I was put in the hot seat myself, doing a live interview with Stewart George from Radio Stoke, and had some very interesting questions.

I have been down to Rodbaston, hearing about the new Rural Enterprise Academy with £4.8m funding from the government. Which means more investment in Staffordshire’s future.  More good news.

I listened to Eric Pickles and Bob Neil at the Local Government Association and I did a presentation to the LGA about the West Midland Councils and the work past, present and future. After this I headed home on the West Coast Main Line Virgin Rail which only took 75 minutes to Stafford. This shows that transport is key to inward investment in Staffordshire. We should just let the county do it!

Back down to London again for the County Council Network’s Council meeting, discussing topical issues and listening to DEFRA’s Lord Taylor talk on Rural Proofing. 

I also travelled right past the Olympics site just the other day on my way to talk to Essex CC, and I can feel the excitement building here, especially with the torch bearers announced, and details of the entire route across Staffordshire. I have to say we’re really looking forward to greeting the Olympic torch twice to our county.