Archive for November, 2012

Congratulations to the new PCC

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Following the local PCC elections last week and the taking of the oath ceremony on Wednesday, I would like to congratulate Matthew Ellis on his appointment as Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire. He has served the council well as Cabinet member for Adult Wellbeing, developing and advancing our health and social care agenda in the county as we know it.  He will bring a well refined set of skills to his new role and I trust he will provide great vision for policing in Staffordshire.

Our county is a place where people can live safely and increasingly free from crime and the fear of crime. I am sure that Matthew will continue to build on the work we have done with the Police to ensure the safety of our county and the satisfaction of the public in its police force.

At a meeting of our Cabinet on Wednesday we pledged to support the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) efforts to secure a ‘City – County Deal’ from Government.  We are working with 40 public and private partners to develop proposals and make a compelling case to the Government.

We call it 50 – 50 -10, to accelerate economic growth and create more jobs, our number one priority.  Our ambition is to create 50,000 jobs, increase the value of our economy by 50% over ten years. We want to develop key sites to allow existing businesses to expand and to attract new companies to the area. This will be supported by investment in roads, education and training to support growth and job creation.

We will work on this project to benefit the population of the whole of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent in its entirety, taking advantage of our prime location in the heart ofEngland, with excellent road and rail links.

I have also recently attended some topical talks on the EU budget and its effects on the West Midlands in Birmingham. Past European Regional development Fund and European Social Fund funding have saved auto industry supply chain to enable current Jaguar Land Rover investment. Future EU funding will be locally delivered with the LEP and the promising City Deal. Every meeting has one worthwhile fact and this one was “we need to put aside feelings of prejudice and jealousy in new partnership working”.

We all have our own memories of the London Olympics. Thousands of you came out to see the torch as it past through Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, or maybe you cheered at your TV screen when Britain’s athletes won one of their many gold medals, or maybe you were lucky enough to visit London and watch the games live.  Volunteers made the Olympics the success it was, and we celebrated their success on Wednesday night at the new St George’s National FA Centre in Burton.  I met many volunteers and some of our crowning Olympians, including Anna Watkins and Lee Pearson. It was a great evening and I hope it put across our appreciation of the county’s volunteers efforts.

The Armed Forces of Staffordshire – before, today and tomorrow

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I attended the Remembrance service at St. Michael’s in Rocester for Armistice Day. As has happens every year, the names of the villagers who lost their lives during the two World Wars, inscribed on the church’s lych gate, are read out followed by a two minute silence.  The community spirit of Rocester is touching and a proud moment to have been a part of. A whole country falling silent together in respect of others is a powerful concept, and I’m glad I was able to join a service where the meaning runs deep. I hope everyone was able to attend a Remembrance service last weekend and pay tribute to this country’s armed forces.

Thinking of our serving soldiers, it is good news that the Mercian Regiment, who will have its title changed soon, will retain the ‘Staffords’ name. The Mercian Regiment was formed in 2007 as the amalgamation of the Cheshire, Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, and Staffordshire regiments respectively- many of you might remember the Staffordshire regiment as just ‘Staffords’. It was announced in the summer that the regiment would be disbanded as part of a reorganization of the MoD.   I’m happy to say that, after many people spoke out about it, it’s being proposed that the battalion’s official title is changed to ‘The Mercian Regiment (Cheshires, Worcesters and Foresters, and Staffords)’ to retain the tradition of the regiments that formed it. The Staffordshire knot will also feature on the arm of the uniform. This is a victory for the people who have a connection to the Staffords. It is a long standing tradition that means a lot to many from this county, including me. Here’s to the Staffords regiment, and let’s keep our connection with our brave serving men and women in the Armed Forces.

I’m pleased to see the national headlines surrounding the Deal for our area i.e. the co-operation of a “Labour-led city authority” and a “Conservative-controlled county council”. Top alliteration there. They also recognize our growth in UKjob creation, our top priority for the people of Staffordshire.  I’m very excited about the “Deal with Government” – we have a good strong lead in our efforts to with the bid, the work with Stoke will benefit us both, and there is so much we can achieve should we be successful.  This scheme is a brilliant move by the Government and it promises to push the counties of Britainto greater efforts for our people. You can read an excellent article on the Deal from The Guardian here. (see link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2012/nov/14/city-deals-stoke-on-trent-staffordshire?CMP=twt_gu)

I hosted some delegate visitors from the Russian city ofIvanovo recently. They’ve come to Staffordshire to see our healthcare services and to learn from our general care service structures. It is an honour to receive the delegates and knowing that our county is considered worth learning from by far-away cities is something to be proud of.

A busy day started with attending a West Midlands Transport Summit at Molyneux, Wolverhampton. Speaking on I54 with Leaders from across the region and LEP Chairmen pic.twitter.com/P2uVbH4t

I also saw Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury lobbying the highest levels of government about Transition Zone status ERDF which could be worth €116m a year to Staffordshire andShropshire. 

Finally, I attended the Stafford NFU AGM speaking about Farming – the essential of life. A global view of the future.  Some interesting thoughts which triggered much debate.

Great news as next round of City Deals launches…

Friday, November 9th, 2012

It’s  terrible to hear about the escalated issues of the ash tree disease and its something I’m quite concerned about. After the not-too-long-ago disasters of when the elm trees suffered a similar fate, the prospect of having to burn yet more of our countryside and forestation to stop the spread of that vile fungus is a sad thought. The council will do its part to contain the problem and contribute to halting the disease. I do hope the efforts of the nation will be able to destroy this ailment and save our country’s ash trees.

Great news on the City Deal front. For those that don’t know, your council and business leaders are competing with 19 other regions for a £1billion Government deal to generate 50,000 jobs in the county over the next 10 years. We’ll be working together with Stoke on Trent City Council to compile a manifesto for our bid. Ambitious ideas are being put across, making a unique and daring effort for the deal. We will promote everything we have to give and everything we can achieve.

In addition, Lord Heseltine recently completed his review of UK Competitiveness. His recommendations suggests that greater powers for councils and local enterprise partnerships to stimulate their economies can create more jobs for Staffordshire residents. Our strong local partnerships and public sector organizations are clearly a strong step in the right direction and will help pave our path to future growth.

A report also presented to cabinet recently has shown that Staffordshire is on track in its achievements and contributions towards balancing the budget, with particular notice towards the work of i54 South Staffordshire and the business support helpline. It’s always good for such positive reinforcement that we are heading in the right direction. You can read the full report at http://moderngov.staffordshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=123&MId=3533&Ver=4 and read from page 22 of the agenda reports pack.

You may recall those adverts on TV with people like Theo Paphitis or Karen Brady saying “I’m in” in reference to the work place pension’s scheme, in hopes of encouraging people to save for the future rather than rely on the state pension. SCC would like to announce its involvement in the project. This is a positive and beneficial idea being put into practice that will have major benefits in the future, and we are happy to join the Government’s ‘shake-up’ of pensions. ‘We’re in.

I’m now thinking ahead to Remembrance Sunday and attending my local village service at the War Memorial in St Michael’s Lychgate, Rocester.  Armistice Day stands as one of this country’s proudest and most dignified days of the year, and the united gathering of an increasing number of people to commemorate Britain’s war casualties is a significant event.

We have many magnificent memorials and gardens dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in our towns and villages including the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas and the Cannock Chase War Graves.

As a long-standing supporter of the Armed Forces I would encourage people to visit one of the county’s wonderful sites this Sunday and attend a service of Remembrance to honour the fallen and stand in silence at the stroke of eleven o’clock.

Growth, at home and in office.

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Well, now finished sowing my wheat fields , adding to the 30% sown nationally so far. Recent reports are saying that wheat production in Britain this year are at a 23 year low thanks to all that unfortunate weather I’m sure you all remember. The result of this next year will be bigger imports, and our bread and cereal will come to us from the fields ofRussia. Be glad if you see tractors at work this week, they’ll be ensuring a bigger stock of British produce for next year.

Our economy grows elsewhere though this week. Staffordshire’s manufacturing sector has had four notable new projects receive Government funding, with successful bids to the Regional Growth Fund. We should be seeing the effects of the funding soon, with companies like Jaguar Land Rover and Goodwin PLC setting up shop in Staffordshire. This promises jobs and economic growth. Staffordshire’s economic engine continues to gather momentum, and the addition of a prestigious company like Jaguar is a great addition to Staffordshire’s family businesses.

Speaking of Staffordshire’s success in business, well done to Cllr Lee Bates and Carol Gee for their work setting up Community Cafes in Tamworth and gaining a Lottery Grant. With so much talk in the papers about the strength of small and medium sized businesses in helping out our economy it is good to have these demonstrations of Staffordshire’s support and drive for enterprise. To quote Michael Fallon “While small sized businesses are our economy’s life blood, medium sized ones provide the muscle”.

Grant Shapps Party Chairman was the speaker marking 1000 days of Conservative admin at Staffordshire County Council and we have achieved much in difficult times.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude also made a speech in Coventry to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) annual summit and reminded that everyone in the public sector should ask “How can we spend taxpayers money better”.  And, even more important  Look for the outcome not how much you spend.  Some wise words.  You can read more at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/francis-maude-speech-society-local-authority-chief-executives-solace-annual-summit