Archive for May, 2012

Going for Gold

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

First of all congratulations are in order as Staffordshire County Council has picked up the top communications award for employee engagement around Families First.

Another reason to celebrate, after the Torch Relay came through Gnosall, Haughton & Stafford yesterday, is with the Jubilee weekend which is so close you can smell the baking.

A huge number of people turned up to see the torch relay, it was great to see such a response and support for the local torch bearers, and to get Stafford in the Olympic spirit, but if you missed it the torch will be coming back to Staffordshire on Saturday 30 June.

We want as many people as possible to come and line the streets, wave the torch along and to join in with, and enjoy the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this weekend, all part of what is going to be a fantastic summer.

As well as celebrating what’s going on at the moment, in the last week I have been to the Falklands Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, remembering the 255 who gave their lives, and I saw Prime Minister David Cameron paying his tribute to the fallen and looking at the Monte Cassino and Gold Beach monuments.

But whilst the NMA hosts a wealth of tributes to causes worthy of looking back on, I have also been looking forward, at the LGA Economy Transport meeting about the Local Growth Campaign, looking at street works and EU funds after 2013, which are all key for Staffordshire.

So enjoy the celebrations and your extra days off work this weekend, make sure you keep an eye out for the ‘President’ on the Thames Pageant this Sunday, and don’t forget to visit us at next week’s County Show!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks…

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Two key items from the May Cabinet Meeting and full council meeting were that we are pledging to hand over more decision making power to residents to help them shape their local communities and make them better places to live, ‘unlocking local capacity’ has worked so well with Your Staffordshire Card, Staffordshire Cares, and the dimming of street lights, getting the people of Staffordshire involved on making decisions that will affect them. Another outcome of the meeting was our plans to make sure people in genuine need receive the right benefits and financial support, we proposed to improve the quality of our service through a ‘one stop shop’ style approach to benefits, financial assessments and welfare advice.

Earlier this week I visited Chestnut Grange extra care in Burton and met many contended residents and saw the fantastic facilities provided. Chestnut Grange is another great example of our social services, with health and housing working together to deliver a brilliant result.

It’s been a week full of VIP visits, with Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Michael Beatty and I presenting a Union Flag and a Staffordshire County flag to all schools in Staffordshire to celebrate and commemorate the Jubilee. And our very own VIP Sir James Hawley, former Lord Lieutenant, has been made a Freeman of the County of Staffordshire.

I met with Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk, at Staffordshire Place to talk about our Staffordshire economy with fellow LEP board. The government minister is backing Staffordshire as a great place to do business. The minister was invited by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to celebrate the areas successes and how it is forging ahead of the pack with regional economic regeneration.

Staffordshire firms go from strength to strength, with Alstom celebrating 50 years of high voltage direct current work in Stafford with a £200M order from Sweden. Over 2,000 people work in Stafford on HVDC. And there has been more great news with BRIC countries fuelling our counties growth as our very own Staffordshire firm JCB wins a massive £60m roads contract from Brazil.

And on a more cultural note, I went to see the Staffordshire Saxon in the Potteries Museum with sculptor Andy Edwards, it’s a fantastic piece and well worth a visit to see him.

A Falklands War memorial has been unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to remember the brave troops and I was there when the Prime Minister paid his respects to the Falklands fallen a few days later and was able to tell him about the plans to invest in the site.  We were there a couple of weeks ago for signing of our Armed Forces Community Covenant tying in with the council being shortlisted for our innovation in work with families in frontline services

Welcoming Lord Heseltine

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Lord HeseltineAs a council creating the atmosphere for jobs and prosperity is our number one priority, and meeting Lord Heseltine at Staffordshire Place last Friday as part of his Independent Review of UK Competitiveness was about presenting the case to him that Staffordshire is something different!

We understand business and have the political leadership, partnerships and infrastructure to enable growth and prosperity, and it works.

Supporting people and businesses, both large and small, for the last three years through the economic policies we have here has allowed us to outperform cities for growth – look at JCB’s record profits and their new order for machines in Brazil, and our ability to attract global leaders including Jaguar Land Rover, Nestle and Amazon to the county.

In that time, the County Council’s combined efforts have provided the platform for 4,330 jobs to be either created or safeguarded across Staffordshire.

And looking forward, there’s just 15 days now before the Olympic Torch Relay reaches us, the flame was lit last week in ancient Olympia, and will tour around Greece before it gets passed on to us, reaching British soil on the 18 May.  You can meet the Stafford Torchbearers on our website, read their stories, no doubt they’re as excited as we are about the Relays two visits to Staffordshire.

And some good news, our fight against fake tobacco is continuing in Burton, there has been a big increase in hi-tech manufacturing jobs across the county, and a £40m M&S development in Newcastle has been given the green light, which is excellent news for the Town Centre.

This weekend to celebrate Adult Learner’s Week we opened an art and craft exhibition right here in 1 Staffordshire Place, there’s some excellent work, really worth a look, it will be on display here all week so do come along and have a look.

Drought and floods in the same week. But a proud month!

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Drought and floods in the same week, it could only happen in this great country of ours.  Or as the Chaplin at the National Memorial Arboretum said to me at the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant, “Don’t blame me for the weather, I am not management, only sales!” At least the water is filling our reservoirs!

You should all feel proud this week following the signing of the county’s first Armed Forces Community Covenant at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.  Staffordshire has always had a proud military presence in the county and the Covenant is a dedicated commitment to our armed forces.  The signing is also well timed as over the coming years we will be welcoming thousands of personnel and their families as they are re-deployed to the county.

I’ve also been down to Birmingham at the West Midland Council, first to discuss how mutual organisations can help deliver services by bodies owned by employees, communities and customers, at a management steering group and again with the Association of Colleges in a discussion on colleges and their communities.

The Staffordshire Hoard featured on Time Team two weeks ago, showing how much more work has to be done. The Mercian Trial will help this great local history opportunity.

And don’t forget to watch out for the President narrow boat which will be flying the flag for Staffordshire in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant on 3 June.  We proudly waved her off last week on her 300-mile journey down to London.

Last week I spent more time on my own patch with a packed meeting in Stramshall about the proposed 87m tall wind turbine at Uttoxeter Quarry where residents made clear their objections in a calm professional manner. It looks like tourism fears are also to blow wind turbine plans off track in the Staffordshire Moorlands.  The plans have been thrown out amid concerns the towering structures would put off visitors.  They warned that the Moorlands could not be advertised as offering ‘stunning views over unspoilt countryside’ if the landscape was ‘turbinised’.

And there was lots of good news from Rocester village groups at the Annual Parish Meeting about a thriving and living rural community, village hall, Children’s Centre, allotments and Academy. I am glad I circulated an Annual Report to all the 14 Parish Clerks in Uttoxeter Rural Division as I cannot get round all of their Annual Meetings. And there is a lot to tell. At the Staffordshire’s Members Spring Event we heard about “Feeling the Difference” and “Exploring the Impact of Our Way of Working”, looking at what has been achieved so far in Staffordshire. These include in the last year investment in superfast broadband, Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub, Staffordshire Cares, Integrated Trust, i54 South Staffordshire, £50m in highways and our new ways of working. We have also pledged to keep school meals at the same price until at least January 2013, bringing welcome savings for parents. 

And finally a bit closer to the farm, I have finished taking the last load of the 2011 harvest wheat to the mill. The 2012 harvest will be about the same time as the London Olympics.

Obviously the Olympic Games are fast approaching with the torch relay making its first appearance in the county on Wednesday 30 May.  It’s definitely a once in a life time opportunity, and I’d like to see everyone out on the streets celebrating and cheering the local torch bearers along.  Find out what’s happening in your area at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/2012