Archive for October, 2012

Rodbaston Rural Academy opens

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I had the honour and pleasure of opening the new Rural Enterprise Academy in Rodbaston this week. For those who don’t know, the Academy is a school that exists to educate young people with not only the GCSE curriculum but with the skills needed for rural, environmental and land-based industries. A lot of work has gone into the development, and this is just phase one. Cutting the ribbon on Tuesday felt like a tremendous and positive step for the youth of Staffordshire and the future of rural industry. I saw some promising, bright young people on the day, and I’m glad that the future of our rural businesses and environment may one day be in their hands.

Following the uncertainty over who will be running the west coast mainline train service, I’m sure people are appreciative of the news that Virgin will be running the line until December until the issues surrounding it are cleared up. I’m sure that will keep the world turning for now, but again, whenever a bid is secured it won’t matter who is running the trains just as long as the service is top class.

I was at our Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. On the agenda, agreement of a Wind Energy Position statement, Alcohol Partnership pooled funding and Finance reports which look healthy with the budget within 1.6% of our target.

I’ve had several meetings with the council this week about the possibilities of wind energy in Staffordshire. While I agree that sustainable energy is important, it doesn’t come above the damage of installing wind turbines to our landscapes and our economy. Lets look forward to advancements in Staffordshire’s clean energy efforts without the detrimental effects.

At cabinet we also took the decision to pool budgets around drugs and alcohol addiction with our partners, Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire NHS, Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership plus HM Prison Service. This has been one of our key priorities over the last three years. The £380,000 will be used to build on the previous successes in treating people with addiction and will focus on preventing them from developing problems in the first place that could lead to ill health or even involvement in crime. We’ll also use the funding to help educate young people and their families about the dangers associated with drugs and alcohol.

Well done also to our Trading Standards teams over the last few months, including officers in Burton who seized £6,000 of fake cigarettes and tobacco last week. The team led a joint operation with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Staffordshire Police, seizing 12,000 cigarettes and 6.5 kilos of hand rolling tobacco. Sticking with Trading Standards, I would like to wish Brian Mycock, one of our most experienced officers all the best as he retires this week after many years of service in keeping the county’s consumers safe.

Autumn arrives

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The central heating has switched on for the first time in months and it’s still dark when I get up in the morning. Autumn must have arrived.

Some people don’t like this time of year, they don’t enjoy the abrupt climate change marking the end of summer and only think of what’s to come in winter. I say it’s a great time of year, as I’m sure others agree. And when Staffordshire has estates like Shugborough to watch the trees change their colours you can’t help but appreciate it.

Speaking of Shugborough, well done to everyone who took part in the Katharine House charity run last Sunday on the estate. I hope the grounds are as enjoyable running through them as they are walking through them. It was for a worthy cause and everyone who took part should be proud.

It was good to see such positive attendance to the JCB academy last weekend. For those who don’t know, the academy is for students aged 14 and up who are interested in engineering and business, and an open evening was hosted last Saturday for interested pupils and parents. No doubt it will produce some of the finest engineers and business leaders of the future and we need more schools like it.

It’s been a big week to be a conservative county councilor as the conservative party conference dominated the headlines. I was able to attend and launched Staffordshire’s unique bid to take part in the ‘Deal’ to bring 50,000 jobs over the next 10 years with a help of a national £1 billion investment.  Our area can contribute substantially to national growth and prosperity and support the Government’s priority of getting Britain moving. It’s ambitious, but Staffordshire’s councilors will do whatever is needed to ensure that our county is a front runner in providing our residents with jobs during this economic struggle.

Among many fringe events I attended was the NFU fringe event on Monday and listened to the new ministerial team and questions on bovine TB and Food security, a looming issue for all of us. 

On Tuesday I took the 5 hour train journey from Stafford to Brussels by Eurostar to meet Commissioner Hahn about European Regional Development Fund Transition status for Staffordshire and Salop. More cash for SMEs, R&D, green economy.  The decision could be worth £70m+ to our area.

Work and weather will let up eventually. When the back to back council meetings came to a close and the clouds moved aside for the brief respite last week, I was able to spend my time fixing machinery and enjoying my farm in the remaining sunshine.

 

Harvest Moon

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The Harvest Moon is the name given to the first full moon following the Autumnal equinox. Traditionally, it was named for illuminating the evening so that farmers could work during the night to gather up that year’s harvest.  If recent times are anything to go by it was probably also used to make headway on repairing the grizzly damage of hard hitting rain. If you were out last Saturday evening I hope you managed to see it, in full glory with no clouds. 

The bombardments of last week appear to have stopped for the time being, giving me time to turn out the rams with the ewes for frolicking and such. We’ll hopefully be seeing new lambs on the farm in five months time.

I recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to ask him to rethink his plans concerning the reform on school funding I mentioned two weeks ago.  Well He agreed for David Laws, Minister of State for Schools, to meet with my Cabinet colleagues Ian Parry and Liz Staples, on Tuesday and they had a very positive meeting.  Our councillors were given significant support by no less than five MPs, and our ideas and suggestions were received with great receptiveness. We’ll be watching out for the plan changes for the better shortly. We continue to hold our pledge to support our schools and our children for their futures against any change that may threaten them.

The nominations for the Volunteer Staffordshire Awards have been opened for their third year. For any who don’t know, the awards allow the public to nominate local volunteering heroes for their selfless endeavours, and have categories such as Volunteer of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, and Volunteer Team of the Year. There are ten categories this year and shortlisted candidates will attend an evening award ceremony in March.

I’m proud to be able to recognise our volunteers for their irreplaceable contributions to our communities, and if you know someone who deserves recognition for their actions, then please nominate them for an award at www.volunteerstaffordshire.org.uk

I’m sure you all have heard of the “turmoil” surrounding the West Coast Main Line franchise after Richard Branson’s legal challenge. I’m sure everyone will agree that it doesn’t matter so much who is providing the service just as long as it is of the highest quality and running as intended. SCC pledges to fight our corner in insisting that normal train service is maintained and that the promises made for more seats & cheaper fares are kept.