Archive for August, 2013

Supporting Staffordshire’s rural communities

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

While it is easy to forget 80% of Staffordshire is rural, rural communities and business play an invaluable part in Staffordshire’s success and will continue to get the backing they need thanks to Staffordshire’s Rural Declaration.

The signing of the Declaration by over 40 organisations back in March and the drawing up of a Rural Strategy is enabling people and businesses to enjoy continued success.

Through the Declaration we are all making better use of the available resources, closer working together, sharing expertise and avoiding duplication. It also helps to address issues and challenges that rural communities face.

We will continue supporting rural businesses through our superfast broadband commitment, backing the community council’s bulk oil buying scheme, business loans, county farms programme and using rural companies as suppliers.

It was a different time 25 years ago when our Knutton Enterprise Centre in Newcastle opened its doors in 1988. The centre, like all our enterprise centres, continues to help start-up businesses to grow the county’s economy while providing valuable jobs.

Across the county there are 13 enterprise centres offering a mix of units on flexible tenancy agreements a real draw to new businesses which do not want to get tied into long-term rent agreements.

Last year Cannock Chase enterprise centre celebrated its 25th year while Burton marked the same anniversary earlier in 2013.

Our residents tell us that they value the services provided and I’m delighted to see so many units occupied and that the businesses are doing so well. It is important that our future business economy continues to evolve and grow and that our entrepreneurs have a chance to seize that opportunity.

As public consultation on the proposals to dissolve Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust continue, the Trust Special administrator has been asked to attend a special meeting of the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee.

The scrutiny meeting, at 9.30am on 2 September has been called to allow us to question the administrators about the implications of the proposals not only for those residents who currently use Stafford and Cannock hospitals, but for the wider health economy in Staffordshire. It’s a public meeting which is also being webcast on www.staffordshire.gov.uk – just search for “webcast”.

As I have said before it is vitally important for residents to have their say, so I would urge people to get involved in the consultations, either at the events or via the website. You can find more details at http://tsa-msft.org.uk/consultation/.

Philip Atkins

Leader

The Launch of Discovering the Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

You will recall back in 2009 metal detectorist Terry Herbert uncovering the amazing Staffordshire Hoard in Fred Johnson’s Hammerwich field putting Staffordshire on the global stage.

In the original find, more than 3,500 objects and fragments of Anglo-Saxon treasure was discovered, a collection that was met with international wonder. In late 2012, the Hoard field was ploughed again and a further 81 items were uncovered.

To celebrate the finds we have launched a new touring exhibition to help more people discover the history behind the find. “Treasure – Discovering the Staffordshire Hoard” will be visiting community venues across the county to tell the story of the find and to bring our heritage to life.

Many hundreds of thousands of people have managed to see the Staffordshire Hoard and this touring exhibition will give even more people the chance to experience the historic and wonderful discovery. This is our heritage and we are extremely proud of our past.  I am sure you will agree it is also fantastic that the Hoard has returned to the county from which it came, allowing local people to reconnect with our shared past and common culture. If you are interested in finding our more please visit:  www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk

Supporting the Armed Forces:

Last year saw the launch of the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant scheme, an initiative that gives Staffordshire organisations the capacity to better support our local armed forces and the opportunity to involve the local community with our service families.

Organisations can apply for funding to be put towards developing ways to bring our civilian and armed forces communities together, and the deadline for the next wave of bids is this December.

I am delighted to see that three Staffordshire organisations have already benefited from the fund and I look forward to the work they will be doing in their local communities.  Most organisations are eligible and I would encourage them to make an application to help our local communities thrive.  There are more details on our website at www.staffordshire.gov.uk ’s more details

High Speed Rail 2:

We have tried to make sure the voice of many residents in Staffordshire who have voiced their concerns against the proposed high speed railway line HS2 and the damage it may cause to our communities and countryside is heard.

The Council is appealing for an estimated extra £170m bill to be paid by HS2 ltd and not by taxpayers. The proposal has been made as part of the Mitigation and Enhancement Plan which also sets out what the county expects from HS2 should it go ahead. This will be debated at our Cabinet meeting next week.

As a county council we are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of this national transport scheme on our county, should it go ahead.

We still believe that HS2 will not benefit the County and as it is a £40 billion scheme our calls for  £170 million needs to be spent at the very least on measures to mitigate the impact of creating a high speed network in Staffordshire. This is just the impact of Phase One and as a county council we will continue to champion the cause of local communities and help ensure those affected by both phases also get meaningful and timely compensation.

Farming – a local success, a national problem:

A recent report from the National Farmers Union claims that if all the food produced in the UK in a year were stored and eaten from January 1, the ”cupboard” would be bare today (August 14th).

Nearly 90% of the UK is rural, home to a quarter of our population and over a quarter of our businesses. As both a consumer and producer of food, I am extremely concerned by the news that Britain now produces less than two-thirds (62 per cent) of the food that we eat compared to 75 per cent in 1991.

A largely rural county, Staffordshire County Council recognises the contribution that farming makes to our economy. As a result, we took the decision to invest in our County Farms at a time when many other local authorities sold up their land to generate an income.

Nationally the average age of a farmer is 58 years old and is rising each year, something that could lead to skills shortages in the future. Staffordshire County Farms currently has 22 tenants between the ages of 24 and 40. We are also working with the skills sector such as the Rural Enterprise Academy in Rodbaston to help plug the skills gap.

As well as encouraging youngsters into farming, we endeavour to help local farms prosper. The county council has a contract with Wells Farm Dairy, which sources milk from our county farms to supply milk to nearly 400 schools across Staffordshire as well as County Buildings and Staffordshire Place. This is complemented by our work with Entrust which is using local county farmers to supply meat, vegetables and milk to schools.

It’s in everyone’s interest that we recognise the role the countryside has always played in feeding our population. We therefore back the NFU’s calls for Government to help create an environment where farming businesses can prosper, thus contributing to the rural economy and feeding our families for many generations to come.

From Sir Anthony to Lord Bamford

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Sir Anthony Bamford, or Lord Bamford as he will now be known, has been made a life peer in the House of Lords. The Chairman of the world famous excavator company which makes the 180 degree JCB digger, heavy plant and other products, received his life peerage for his enormous contribution to British and global manufacturing, through his work with the Staffordshire based company.

Lord Bamford represents the latest in a long line of world-leading industrialists from the county and has not only continued JCB’s proud association with Staffordshire, but has also led the company to greater success on the world manufacturing stage.

I’d like to congratulate Lord Bamford on his peerage, a fitting honour for the work he has done far beyond Rocester where JCB HQ is based near Uttoxeter and Uttoxeter for the country and the county. I look forward to the continuing good work of JCB and the additional value that Sir Anthony will bring in his role as Lord Bamford.

As many of you will already know, consultations on the Trust Special Administrators’ proposals to restructure local hospital services, is underway.

With the decision to strip the hospital of its capacity for critical care and paediatric services, I am concerned that without public intervention the maternity unit will also suffer. If the proposals go ahead it means that expectant mothers will need to travel out of town to have their child, when they could be delivered at a midwife-led maternity unit.

As I have said before it is vitally important for residents to have their say, so I would urge people to get involved in the consultations, either at the events or via the website. You can find more details at http://tsa-msft.org.uk/consultation/.

Philip Atkins

Leader

The future of health services in Staffordshire

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This week saw the report and recommendations from the Administrators at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, published on Wednesday and from all the coverage you will know it’s been recommended that the Trust be dissolved. The report also recommended that a restructure of how healthcare is delivered takes place at both Stafford and Cannock Hospitals

It’s been proposed that Stafford Hospital would retain its 14 hours seven-day-a-week A&E service, but lose critical care, maternity and paediatric in-patient services to other hospitals. Cannock Hospital would see increased services with assistance from the Royal Wolverhampton Trust.

I have to say there were no huge surprises in the proposals and I am particularly pleased to see that, despite people’s fears, Cannock hospital remains open and Stafford Hospital will continue to run an A&E department.

I know that people in Stafford will be disappointed at the loss of some services, particularly the maternity service, and I urge people to get involved in the consultation so that proper consideration is given to the maintenance of a midwife led maternity unit in Stafford. It is crucial that as many people engage with the consultation as possible, unless all of our voices are heard we cannot hope to change the administrator’s mind-set.

Like everyone, we will be looking at the proposals in detail over the next few days and considering our response over the coming weeks. We need to be convinced that changes to acute hospital services are viable, sustainable and deliver the quality care that the people of Staffordshire deserve. Although the recommendation is to dissolve Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, it will be the Secretary of State’s call on whether it is replaced with another trust.

To have your say in these consultations – and I urge everyone to do so – please visit http://tsa-msft.org.uk/consultation/.

At the same time our work to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the county continues and we set up the Staffordshire Health and Wellbeing board in April. We wanted to ensure that people are heard in the decisions on healthcare that affect them. I’ve often said, people speaking with one voice must drive our approach to care services.

That board currently has a consultation on its Living Well in Staffordshire vision, a five year plan that sets out how people will be healthy, safe and prosperous with the opportunities to live their life in a strong, safe and supportive community.

This is a real opportunity for people to have their say and will be the basis for the priorities of the Health and Wellbeing Board, who will deliver the plan. It’s important that the strategy truly reflects the needs and views of the people of Staffordshire. We need to hear people’s opinions to bring the plan together and make it work.

To take part in the consultation, which is open until September 6th, people can send in their views to the www.engagingcommunitiesstaffordshire.co.uk website or by email at: contactus@conversationstaffordshire.co.uk or by telephone on 0800 051 8371.