Archive for October, 2013

TSA given more time to make their recommendations

Monday, October 28th, 2013

We heard during the week that Monitor, the health regulator was giving the Trust Special administrators extra time to agree how essential services at Stafford and Cannock hospitals could be funded. We have argued since the beginning that the TSA’s recommendations didn’t add up and before any restructuring of health services goes ahead, we need to be clear that the proposed changes answers the health questions for Staffordshire rather than raising further questions on the future funding of health care generally.

We have made our concerns on the future funding of Stafford absolutely clear and in our opinion the TSA has failed to meet its own remit. Instead of addressing the wider impact on the whole of the county of Staffordshire, these proposals will only see the burden shifted to other trusts.

It was great to get a mention last week by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson MP who highlighted three of our innovative projects at a recent conference. He called for innovation on a local level asking local authorities to drive innovation, explaining that this would allow them to improve faster and provide better value for money. I look forward to working closely with Mr Timpson in driving forward change and improvements for children and their families.

I am also delighted to report that our purchasing teams have been awarded a gold standard award by the Federation of Small Businesses West Midlands for buying locally and supporting local companies. Most of the county council’s goods and services are now sourced within Staffordshire – a commitment recognised by the Federation, that keeps local money in the local economy and supports jobs and businesses to grow.  The FSB said our efforts to keep the Staffordshire pound in Staffordshire through a range of initiatives are making a real difference to the local economy. They also described us as a national leader in terms of sourcing goods, services and supplies locally with around £270million being spent locally each year.

Last week we joined colleagues from over 150 other local authorities from across the country and took part in ‘Our Day’. This was a special, one day social media awareness day to promote the work of councils and the individuals who deliver the services.

We are incredibly lucky to have some great people doing a fantastic job here in Staffordshire every single day and this was our chance to highlight the work they do.  From the highways crews preparing for winter, to the registration staff giving people their big day to the customer service staff who answers around 1230 enquiries from the public every day. I spent some time myself in our Customer Contact Centre answering tweets and email enquiries from members of the public. Big Thanks to all the teams who made the day a great success and to the staff in the contact centre for making me so welcome.

On a sadder note I attended the funeral service of Frank Lewis at Lichfield Cathedral. Frank was a former Chairman of Staffordshire County Council from 2011 to 2012, Alderman and the Chairman of Rodbaston Agricultural College, now part of South Staffordshire College. Frank was very well liked by his colleagues and will be missed. Our thoughts are with his wife Barbara, his daughters and his family.

Unlocking the value in our estates

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

At Cabinet on Wednesday, the go-ahead was given to start exploring the market for a suitable private sector company to join with us in a strategic property partnership.

As you will already know, local government is going through changing times in the way it is funded and the way it must deliver its services. Key to the future of local government is innovation and revenue generation at no additional cost to the tax payer.

This proposal, which we will be exploring over the next few months, will help us reinvest in Staffordshire’s future by making our property estate work smarter and harder for the people of Staffordshire.

As a county council we have a proven track record of delivering innovative initiatives to bring in fresh revenue, while protecting frontline services and generating growth across Staffordshire. But we need to start managing all of our property and land in a strategic and more commercial way that takes the longer-term view. 

As an organisation our focus is on delivering the best services possible for residents, but we need to have certain commercial freedoms, including property development, to look at our estate in a strategic way that delivers best value for the needs of the council and that of our residents. To do this we need the expertise, insight and pace that a partner would bring.

We’re at the start of a journey to explore the potential of what could be a ground-breaking initiative, and to work out the detail of how this will work, but a key imperative from the outset what’s best for Staffordshire people will always be the priority. Let me make it clear that this is not ‘privatisation’. The Cabinet will make the decision about which if any partner joins us in a partnership delivering value for our money and will make the final decision on any plans.

Critically, they will have the ethos of innovation and ensuring that the priority is what’s best for Staffordshire people.

Keep checking my blog for future updates or follow me on Twitter @PEBAtkins.

Campaigns to help reduce the fear of crime and jobs advice for young people launch

Monday, October 14th, 2013

The county council has just launched two campaigns, a Fear of Crime Campaign and ‘Let’s Talk Jobs’.

Staffordshire is already a safe county, with crime rates going down, but what we all know is that many people still have a fear of crime. This fear is often not easily justified and does affect people’s quality of life.

Through our new campaign, with our colleagues at the Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner we want to find out about peoples experience of crime and how it affects them, as well as what makes them feel safe – and what doesn’t.

We will be gathering the information with our partners via a survey on and from community venues across the county over the next few weeks.

By better understanding of what matters to people most, we can keep people informed about those issues they care about and in turn help them to feel safer. The more feedback we can get, the better, so I would encourage people to help us out by completing the survey.

I have often said that young people are the key to the county’s future success, and with that we have just launched our new ‘Let’s Talk Jobs’ campaign.

It is essential that our young people have the skills they need to get a good start in their chosen careers and take full advantage of the opportunities open to them. Our campaign will make sure that our young people know how and where to get the best impartial advice they need.

As a Council we have had a lot of success over the years in attracting big business to the county, whilst supporting our smaller and medium sized companies. What employers tell us they need is a skilled local workforce and through supporting young people through good advice, training, meaningful work experience and apprenticeships we can make sure they have what we all need to prosper.

A key area of our work is also to grow the local economy by increasing the number of apprentices across the county. We now have nearly 14,000 apprentices working across a range of industry sectors, which is well up on three years ago. Our own apprenticeship programme is continuing to give young people great opportunities, taking on almost 500 apprentices since 2009.

Two weeks until the Trust Special Administrators make their final recommendations on the future of health services for Staffordshire.

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

With the consultation on the Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust now closed, the Trust Special Administrator have two weeks before submitting their final recommendations to the Health Minister, who will have the final say on the future of our local health services.

As you will know, we have looked at the proposals in great detail over the last few months and, as they currently stand, we believe these recommendations will lead to an unacceptable fragmentation of the local health care system. We have made this very clear in our submissions to the consultation.

The administrators have focused purely on trying to resolve the issues at the trust rather than look at the wider picture and indeed the wider repercussions of these recommendations.

Not only are we very concerned that the financial black hole is still going to leave Stafford Hospital at significant risk of both financial and clinical collapse, but the review also fails to recognise the knock-on impact across the county.

We know that people want more services in the community – not less – and we hope that the concerns of ourselves and the people of Staffordshire are taken on board before any final decision is made.

I have also been to Manchester at the start of the week for the Conservative Party Conference and spoke at the Transport Hub fringe event and APPG Local Growth fringe event. I spoke about the importance of good infrastructure in reducing congestion along with other measure and the work of city deals in growing the economy. I drew on our innovative work with our young person’s travel card and the work at i54 South Staffordshire to help secure future jobs for the county. I also got the chance to talk with many people including Stephen Dorrell MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee.

I was also in a packed hall for Jeremy Hunt’s speech on improving care and listened to him praise NHS staff and the appointment of the Chief Inspector of Hospitals to ensure we have proper acute care. Also listened to Michael Gove’s address on Unlocking Children’s potential.