Archive for November, 2013

Staffordshire Cares – now supporting even more people

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Just over two years ago we launched Staffordshire Cares in response to many of our older residents telling us that they wanted more advice and guidance to help support them to live a happier, healthier and more independent life. I am pleased to let you know that the new approach has been a great success, with over 100,000 people accessing the service to find advice and solutions to issues they were facing.

Although this has been a great start we recognise that it’s not just older and more vulnerable people that need a 24/7 source of advice they can trust. Our wider communities also need help and advice to be more independent and resilient and plan for their future and Staffordshire Cares has been developed further to provide even more advice. Over 400 extra pages of new advice and information have been added to the website, covering important issues such as parenting, schools, education, online safety and coping with bereavement, right up to managing on a budget and keeping safe during the winter. You can see for yourself at www.staffordshirecares.info/Homepage.aspx. You can also follow Staffordshire Cares on Twitter @StaffsCares or you can like them on Facebook www.facebook.com/StaffsCares.

 
Sticking with a winter theme, I would also like to remind people to take extra care while they’re out and about as the temperature starts to drop and the snow and ice makes its way across the county.

Rest assured we are well prepared, with gritting teams on stand by and ready to go out when required. We have the largest gritting network in the West Midlands with our highways teams treating 43 per cent of our 6,000km of roads. We’ve also stockpiled 30,000 tonnes of grit to see us through the winter.

And, each year our innovative Icebusters scheme sees an army of volunteers take to the streets to help communities by clearing away ice and snow from local footpaths. Remember, you can do your bit as well by keeping an eye out for your elderly neighbours when the weather is bad. You can find more information on our website www.staffordshire.gov.uk/News/WinterInformation/Winter-Information.aspx.

If you rely on domestic heating oil to keep the cold at bay you may be interested in the Group Oil Buying Scheme. We know that rising fuel costs are a major concern to many families and we are keen to let people know about the help that’s available to them. The scheme is run by the Community Council of Staffordshire and allows residents to sign up for £20 a year which gets them a cheaper price on their oil. Businesses and community organisations can also join the scheme. You will find more about it here www.staffs.org.uk/communitybulkoilbuyingscheme.html.

During the week we also had the Governments response to the Francis Report – calling for higher standards from the NHS, more openness and greater accountability – which I think is something we would all welcome. We have been quick to anticipate and act to the changing needs of residents and have worked closely with our partners to raise standards and shift focus and funding to support closer to home in the community.

It was also a great pleasure to be invited to speak at the County Council Network’s (CCN) national Conference in Chester on Monday. I was happy to let others know what we are doing in Staffordshire. I spoke about how we can utilize our services rather than selling off Council assets, and what councils need to do to change in these difficult economic times. Again it is great to see that we are leading on many of these innovative approaches.

New Health plan for the county goes to Cabinet

Monday, November 18th, 2013

On Sunday 10 November I attended my local church St. Michael’s in Rocester for their Annual Remembrance Sunday service (as I have done for the last 30 years).  I also visited the National Memorial Arboretum on Monday for a special Armistice Day service.

It’s important that we take time to remember the sacrifices that millions of people made during the many wars that our country has endured.  Staffordshire is very proud of its historic connections with the armed forces and the County Council is committed to supporting them however we can.  The county council signed the Armed Forces Community covenant in May 2012 and we are looking forward to welcoming two Signal Regiments from Germany over the next few years.

I hope you saw Staffordshire featured on BBC Countryfile which I mentioned last week.  Part of the programme also focused on the role that Cannock Chase played in the training of troops for the Great War and the unearthing of the terrain model of the Messines Ridge.

Turning our attention to health again, the delivery of more integrated health and social care in the community is the key focus of a five-year plan to promote the health and wellbeing of people in the county.

The new approach aims to improve the quality of life for residents and tackle a future funding gap of £292 million across health and social care by 2018.  In the report, which goes to Cabinet on November 20, we are recommending that members endorse the approach of the Health & Wellbeing Board and its five-year strategy.

Great news for Uttoxeter heritage and the Redfern Cottage Trust and Volunteers, who have been awarded £40k from the National Lottery to revamp the cottage.  Redfern Cottage dates back to the 17th Century and has been open to the public since the 1980s.  It’s an independent museum that brings together the history of life in the town – worth a visit if you haven’t already been.

The Trust plan to improve access and conserve parts of the grade II listed building, as well as create new displays and exhibitions.  They are keen to get more volunteers on board, so if you can help out, give them a call.

Countryfile special on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Just a reminder to tune into BBC One this Sunday at 6.20pm for a Countryfile special edition on our very own Cannock Chase.

Presenter Julia Bradbury will be exploring how with more than two million visitors a year coming on foot, mountain bike and horseback, volunteers are key to managing the landscape on the Chase.  The show will also feature our much loved and magnificent Shugborough Hall.  Presenter Matt Baker will be celebrating the centenary of Staffordshire’s County Council farms and joining a first time dairy farmer for milking time.  The show will also look at the role Cannock Chase played as a training ground for troops during World War I, and our recent project to unearth the terrain model of part of the Messines Ridge.

Winter preparation underway

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Although the cold weather hasn’t hit us properly yet be reassured that our winter preparations are now underway.

Operation ‘Snowflake’ will see our gritting and snow plough crews gearing up and planning for what ever the winter throws at us. The operation has seen the stockpiling of 30,000 tonnes of grit, refreshing procedures, and overhauling the gritting fleet to ensure they are ready to roll into action when needed.

Last winter our gritting crews did a fantastic job in all weathers helping to keep the roads open and the county safely on the move in quite treacherous conditions.  We are all hoping for a milder winter this time around, and Operation Snowflake will help us minimise the impact of ice, snow and flooding on our roads.

I am also please to report that we have agreed to lease a site at Riverway to Entrust, our joint venture company with Capita with a view to building a state-of-the-art business centre.  Entrust are delivering our education support services to schools in the county.

We have always maintained that Entrust’s headquarters would be in Staffordshire, and this decision is a huge step towards making that a reality.  It’s also really good news for Staffordshire’s economy, as it means the extra jobs that will be created as Entrust grows will remain in the county.  We will now be working with Entrust to submit a planning application, as well as putting together a further separate planning application for supported living accommodation on the other side of the site.

Leaders from the public, private and voluntary sectors also met last week at our Staffordshire Hundred event at the National Memorial Arboretum, to look at the key challenges we face while helping shape the future of services for our residents.

More than 40 of the county’s key organisations attended the event with the aim of celebrating and building on our partnership working to get better outcomes for the people of Staffordshire.  Graham Morley was Master of Ceremonies for the evening and Steve Winterflood Chief Executive at South Staffs District Council gave the key speech on how we need to continue and improve our working together in times when budgets are being reduced across most public sector services.  It was a good event with lots of ideas, huge energy and plenty of networking.

Ultimately, the Staffordshire Hundred demonstrates the commitment of both public and private sector organisations to working together in partnership to make full use of all taxpayer’s money for the benefit of the people, community, businesses and the county as a whole.

It was also great to attend the very first ‘Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards’ at the Moat House in Acton Trussel this week.  The event saw the gathering of the county’s tourism providers who contribute about £1 billion to the Staffordshire economy.

Again working together and in partnership proves how we can help boost our tourism income and position Staffordshire as a great weekend and overnight destination.  Congratulations to all who took part in the awards and in particular those receiving gold, silver and commendations for excellence in their fields.

Some winners on the day included the Staffordshire Hoard: Dark Age Discovery exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for ‘Best Tourism Event’, Weston Park for ‘Taste of Staffordshire Tourism Award’ and Tamworth Tourist Information Centre for ‘Visitor Information Provider of the Year’. Plus, in the accommodation categories, Alton Towers Resort topped the chart for ‘Large Hotel of the Year’ and Swinfen Hall Hotel for ‘Small Hotel of the Year’.