Archive for March, 2013

One good turn deserves another

Friday, March 8th, 2013

From helpin to find loving homes for troubled young people to attracting multinational companies to set up operations in Staffordshire and create new jobs for local people, the County Council provides many services to different groups with different needs.

But I look at each service as an investment – a way of enabling these groups of people to do things for themselves in the future, and access better opportunities.  The last few months have been a brilliant pay off for the commitment and ‘investment’ that Staffordshire County Council, its members and staff have made in providing opportunities to different groups.

One thing which stands out is the amount of effort made by the staff to raise the issue of fostering – in particular the need for specialist foster carers to help those young people with challenging needs.

Every young person deserves a loving and caring home, but some have had such horrendous experience that we need people with a background and understanding of these challenges. Resilience fostering takes young people from residential care and places them in houses where the foster parents understand them – some of the parents are former police officers.

The council is trying to recruit more of these foster parents and the work has been impressive, tackling an issue few people know about. We all know that foster parents give a huge amount – and the Council is giving its all to get more kids into loving homes. I urge you to take a look at this video. By investing our time and efforts in raising the need for these carers we hope the return will be more kids in loving, stable homes who are able to make the most of their potential as they grow up.

The Council is also investing in bigger changes. As I have mentioned before we have been allowed to proceed with our City Deal bid to the government, which will create huge opportunities for local people, promising 31,000 jobs and the chance to put Staffordshire on the map for the production of advanced materials like ceramics and metals used in manufacturing.

I was also delighted to hear confirmation this week that Jaguar Land Rover is increasing its investment at i54 South Staffordshire. The site is a partnership between three councils all investing to create the conditions that will attract businesses to the area creating jobs and opportunities. This month we will begin building a new motorway junction leading on to i54 South Staffordshire, which is one of the reasons we have attracted new business to the site.

Originally JLR committed £355m in 2011 which would create around 750 jobs– now they want to invest over £500m creating another 700–750 jobs, and they haven’t even finished building the engine plant yet!

JLR’s announcement shows real faith in what we can offer in Staffordshire. It also reminds me that investing your resources – whether that is your time or your money – can lead to a payoff that benefits many people. Through the County Council committing its money and time to work with other councils we really have given everything we can to help get jobs and growth in our local economy and its look like it is starting to pay off.

Entrust – announced as the new name for our joint venture

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Entrust is the new name for the 49% county council owned pioneering company with an  in sourcing partnership with Capita to provide innovative support for our schools. It will operate under the name “Entrust”, with its headquarters right here in Stafford.  Entrust will help to improve our schools with everything from ICT, ground maintenance, catering  and performing arts.

This is a great step in the development of the service that we have worked hard for – it took a year to find a company we believed could help partner us in providing the best possible education for our children while safeguarding staff jobs in the face of reduced funding and the ever-competitive education support market.

Entrust will be making use of £50million of fresh investment, £33million of which is dedicated to staff and services over the next three years. The naming of the company, which will start delivering on 1 April marks the creation of a company owned 49% by the county council that will go on to lead the way in providing high quality education support services.

Last year we made a promise to reduce our share of council tax bills over time. Well, I’m very proud to announce just how successful we have been – come April, we will have the lowest county council tax in England while still delivering valued services to our residents.

With our “budget for families and jobs” approved we have agreed to a council tax freeze and a slight reduction this April.

We have listened to and heard about the issues  people  face during the weekly shop feeling the strain on their pockets and increased fuel prices, and by making this reduction in council tax we  are  leaving as much money as possible in their pockets to help while still continuing to improve services.

Never mind the Oscars!  On Monday I was at the LGiU Councillor Achievement Awards, and was honoured to pick up the Award for Partnership Achievement of the Year along with fellow Councillors Cllr Brian Edwards (South Staffordshire Council) and Cllr Roger Lawrence (Wolverhampton City Council).  The Award was for our work around i54 South Staffordshire and big plans to bring major jobs and growth to the area.

I also visited the site for myself on Wednesday, to see the progress on the motorway junction we’re putting in.  Glad to say we’re all on track.