Archive for January, 2013

City Deal submitted

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The recent cold snap has bitten many parts of the country, and the arrival of the snow and predictions of more this weekend is sure to deliver some disruptions. I’d like to remind everyone if you are out and about on the roads, please take care.  If you are at all worried about conditions this weekend, be assured that our highways crews will be doing their very best to make sure that the roads are clear and safe to use. The main SCC number is always available if you need to report problems on the roads 0300 111 8000.  Follow us on twitter @StaffordshireCC or #staffssnow also for the latest updates.

During this snow and icy period I would also remind people to keep an eye out for our elderly neighbours – call or visit them, and make sure that they are OK.

After months of planning, we are very pleased to say that we have just submitted our joint bid for the City Deal to the Government. This is a groundbreaking bid, uniting public and private sector and, if successful, will give us the greater freedom to attract new business and create over 31,000 new jobs. It’s a very exciting development for both councils, and is a great step in working in tandem with our neighbouring local authorities for the benefit of our residents. This is a deal worth fighting for, but I have faith that our bid will be strong enough to succeed to the next round.  We should know sometime in February.

80% of Staffordshire is rural, and many would agree that is a huge part of what makes the county such a wonderful place to live and work. In the council’s effort to protect this green land and also boost job creation, we have given the go-ahead at Cabinet for our Rural Declaration, a set of commitments to work with communities to increase opportunities and the ability to live independently, improve these areas as places to do business and protect them as valuable assets to the county and regionally.  This is a positive step for the county’s countryside and I look forward to seeing the results of these commitments.

I met with Staffordshire’s leaders on Thursday to discuss common issues, budgets, public health and Staffordshire Economic Consortium next steps. I was also in Leek on market day to see more progress on Staffordshire Moorlands District Deal delivery, prioritising work, identifying actions and the work needed to deliver our plans and growth.

More treasure for Staffordshire

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I’m sure you’ve shared the excitement surrounding the further finds in that famous field in Hammerwich, where yet more gold has been determined to be part of the Staffordshire hoard, the largest Anglo-Saxon collection of gold yet found.

The further 81 pieces, it has been decided, are officially “Treasure” according to the coroner, making it a rich addition to our county’s heritage.

The task now is for the fund-raising necessary to buy the find and keep it in the West Midlands. The Hoard of 2009 is currently owned by the regional Museums run by Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham City Councils after the fantastic funding campaign that rose over £900,000. I hope we’ll have similar support in ensuring that we keep the finds together as one Hoard for everyone to enjoy. York has the Vikings, Bath has the Romans, we can be the Anglo Saxon place to visit with Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle.

We have an interesting future of development plans ahead of us. Staffordshire’s commuters and adventurous types may be interested to know that the plans for the second phase of HS2 are to be announced early this year.  Expect to see the route link up to Manchester and Leeds in a “Y” shape. This may include a station in the north of Staffordshire or Cheshire. Some will not be happy about this news, but the Council’s pledge to ensure the voice of the communities affected is heard has not waned, and we will continue to work for the economic and environmental benefit of the people of Staffordshire both now and for the future.

Similarly, the council has welcomed intervention from the Government over the placement of wind farms both onshore and offshore.  Even though renewable energy is important, we’ve said before that we’re opposed to anything imposed on our communities that damage our county’s landscape and economy, and we will not have these wind farm developments if they negatively affect on people’s quality of life.

I have yet more good news to welcome us into 2013. During last year the council managed to save £2million of taxpayer’s money through reducing borrowing and cutting interest payments. The success of this money managing policy will continue, as the council goes into the New Year pledging to use its own cash to fund projects.

We are also moving ahead with our exciting plans at the Redhill Employment Park in Stafford, a development aimed at businesses in the research and technology sector. With construction due to start on Monday 14 January, there will be some traffic disruption on the A34 and I would ask that people bear with us during this work.  Our Highways teams will be doing what they can to keep traffic flowing.  
This major economy-boosting initiative could create in excess of 2,500 jobs, making it one of our boldest and most anticipated projects, and I am very excited to see it begin.  There’s more about the development on our website at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/redhill

I was delighted to be able to attend a dinner at Keele Hall on Wednesday where some of our top employers from across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent gave their endorsement to our pledge for the City Deal, the exciting joint bid for growth reward from the Government of hundreds of millions of pounds for investment and creating over 30,000 new jobs. We’re due to submit the bid next week, so watch this space.

Staffordshire in the New Year

Friday, January 4th, 2013

I hope everyone had a very happy new year’s to round off what was a memorable one in all regards. It was a great year for the country and the county with the participation of the public in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and London 2012 Olympic Games.

I’d like to congratulate all Staffordshire’s recipients in Her Majesty’s New Year’s Honours list who have done this county proud. Well done on your awards, your contributions are noted.  I’d also like to give special mention to our Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, who received the Queen’s Policing Medal for his service in radically reducing crime rates since his appointment in 2009. This is a tremendous achievement on part of Mike’s contributions and the efforts of the Staffordshire police force as a whole, and the recognition is deserved.

You may not believe it (although I think you will) but 2012 has been the second wettest year in recorded rainfall history, with rain wreaking havoc on homes, roads, and fields alike with terrible consequences. I’ve seen many a flooded field this season, most memorably in a plot where there were plans to build 90 new homes. It made me wonder how far they’ll get now that the land is a known flood plain. I can only hope we’ll have drier luck soon.

Excellent news from SouthStaffsCollege, who have just turned 4 years old. In that time they have had an impressive 30,663 learners who have achieved 84004 qualifications. With such a good start we look forward to seeing further achievements and successful students from this key contributor to our local communities.

Anyway, now we’re into 2013, and reminiscing must give way to progress. We have a great year of progress ahead of us, with so many promising developments about to deliver; we have the Jaguar Land Rover engine plant set to open and create jobs with a motorway junction opening at i54 South Staffordshire, and the RedhillBusinessPark is rapidly taking shape. Most exciting of all, our co-operation with Stoke on Trent City Council for a bid on the City Deal in the pursuit of £1bn of funding and the creation of 50,000 new jobs over 10 years will be submitted in January. The key challenges we face this year are job creation, the efficiency of our organisations, and working together to make a real difference in our communities, and as I said to several of the council’s partners in a letter on New Year’s Eve, I truly believe Staffordshire is “sure of who we are, proud of who we are, not a county whose time has been, but one whose time has come.” Here’s to another great year for Staffordshire.