Archive for May, 2014

Supporting people with Dementia

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Good health is vital in supporting independence – as we go through a period of profound change in the health system. Conditions like dementia are increasing demand on services that are already being stretched and the old ways of caring for people need to change. This isn’t about reducing care, it is about making sure that people are able to look after themselves, are as healthy as they can be, and that the help they receive is targeted to their needs. This is a national issue, not just a local Staffordshire one. It is a challenge that requires us to all work together, bringing the right resources, services and people together in the right place at the right time.

This month we saw Dementia Awareness Week which gave us a good opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and the importance of having services in place to cope with the growing number of cases. Dementia affects many people in Staffordshire and has a major impact on the lives of their families and carers. This growing number of people affected by the condition presents extra challenges for councils and their services and it is vital we start to plan for it now. An estimated 11,000 people in Staffordshire are living with some form of dementia, with the number expecting to rise over the next few years.

Last week we revealed proposals to build ‘Centres of Excellence’ for dementia care in Staffordshire, one in Burton and one in Lichfield. These along with the new Limewood development at Northfield Village in Stafford means that Staffordshire will have some of the best dementia care in the country. We are also leading the way with dementia friendly communities by forming a local Dementia Action alliance with our partners in Stoke on Trent and other organisations. With our reception staff being trained to become ‘dementia friends’ it also means they are able to spot the signs of dementia and can provide a much more reassuring service to people with the condition. Families can also be assured that loved ones will see a friendly and understanding face when they now visit the council.

On another topic, we are looking forward to welcoming members of the armed forces back from Germany to the county. We have a strong connection with our armed forces with large bases in Stafford and Lichfield and we are due to be welcoming even more personnel and their families to the county in 2015. We have been planning for this over the past few years with our partners and will see the building of 346 more MoD homes on Beaconside and preparations for a new 402-place primary school. This is all good news for the county town, and will help to regenerate the area.

County welcomes royal visitor

Friday, May 16th, 2014

I was delighted to be able to welcome HRH the Duke of Gloucester to the county for the official opening of our new state of the art, £180m energy recovery plant at Four Ashes.

It’s a pretty impressive plant which will generate enough power for 35,000 homes and has created 40 new jobs. Even better news is that the facility will also help save Staffordshire taxpayers around £250million over the next 25 years and help us achieve our target of Zero Waste to Landfill. School children will also be able to visit the onsite education centre helping young people understand why it is important to recycle and that energy is a finite resource.

The Duke also went on to Chasewater Country Park to hear about the work that’s helped turn the site into a regional hub for water and leisure activities. He also met up with county archaeologist Steve Dean, to find out more about the Staffordshire Hoard which was unearthed just a short distance away.

At our Cabinet meeting on Wednesday we took an important step forward in making sure we are able to bring well paid jobs to the county with the signing off of the Local Enterprise Partnership’s strategic economic plan. This is a long-term plan to create several 1,000 higher skilled and better paid jobs through growing our economy. By working with businesses, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and partners we will continue to make the area a prime location for inward investment.

It is worth remembering that in 2008, Staffordshire had a poor reputation as the worst performing economic sub region of the worst performing region in the UK. In fact when everywhere else was prospering our wealth creation was going backwards. How things have changed as we are now the fastest growing part of the fastest growing economy in the developed world after just five years’ work.

Another important area of the County Council’s work is in managing our natural resources; how we get these out of the ground and how we make sure we reduce the impact on our local communities and our countryside.

The minerals industry is an important part of the Staffordshire economy, supplying the necessary materials for the construction sector and the building of everything from new houses, schools to roads. The sector contributes around £300m to the local economy per year and in 2011, 660 people were employed in the sector.

Our draft Minerals Local Plan is what we use to work out the supplies of sand, gravel and other materials we need to support the county’s growth over the next 15 years and we are keen to hear what people have to say. You can view the details and let us know what you think at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/planning

On a much sadder note, on Wednesday we all heard the news that teenager Stephen Sutton from Burntwood had passed away following his fight with terminal cancer. Stephen was a remarkable young man who has left an extraordinary legacy. He will be remembered not just for the millions of pounds he raised, but for his amazing spirit, bravery and sheer selfless determination to help other young cancer sufferers. His story is truly an inspirational one, and we all share in his family’s sadness of losing one of Staffordshire’s most courageous sons at such a young age – our thoughts are very much with his family at this time.

Focusing on the things that matter most to people

Friday, May 9th, 2014

When we ask people what are the things that matter to them most they tell us it’s having access to good jobs, being healthy and that they have a good place to live where they can feel happy and safe. Our job as a County Council is to help make this happen and having listened to what people want we will focus on this to transform our county and our lives as we live here.

I would like to share with you the three priorities that we will be focusing on over the next few years. We want people to be able to access more good jobs and feel the benefits of economic growth. From creating jobs at I54 South Staffordshire, to Redhill, in Stafford and all the way to the City Deal this is a priority where the county council excels and delivers. But we know that some of us will still struggle to find work, and some businesses can’t get the staff they need to grow – so there is more to do to join things up.

As well as being able to access high quality jobs we all want to be healthier and more independent and to feel safer in our community. These are priorities where the council can also help – from commissioning new services from our public, private and voluntary partners to working with communities to tackle excessive drinking or the fear of crime.

Over the next three years these priorities will drive everything we do, and together with our partners at the police, health services, and local business we’ll improve the lives of the people in the county. Staffordshire is a great county and I want people to be able to say that with pride. I want to see a county where individuals and families take responsibility for their own lives and support others to do so, where everyone can succeed in a thriving economy.

Just this week we saw the launch of the Government’s Your Life campaign to help increase take up and opportunities in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). We know that strong links with education providers, businesses and councils are essential to ensure that people are trained with the right skills and this compliments much of the work we are already doing here in Staffordshire to make sure we have a skilled workforce for the future.

Working with our Local Enterprise Partnership we are providing more training opportunities, with the help of the development of a new engineering and automotive hub in Tamworth. The launch of the Staffordshire Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network two months ago has also seen the number of apprentices go up. The i54 South Staffordshire education partnership, JCB Academy and the City Deal funded training provider all offer great opportunities for the future.

Also this week we had the launch of the Government’s £3.8bn Better Care Fund which aims to build on delivering integrated care with a greater pooling of resources across the public sector to deliver more care in the community and less in acute hospitals. As I have spoken about before, we are ahead of the game on this work having created the country’s largest integrated health and social care trust in 2012– which saw 1,100 employees transfer from the county council to the new organisation.

The fund now offers us an unparalleled opportunity to build on the progress we have already made in focussing on prevention, early intervention and integrated care in the community. We have now submitted a plan to the fund which would unlock a minimum pooled budget of £56m to help deliver integrated care in line with our priorities.

Giving Staffordshire a voice as MPs back HS2

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Earlier in the week we saw HS2 take a step closer as MPs approved the Hybrid Bill to push forward with Phase One of the project. MPs voted 452 to 41 to back the principle of the high speed link with work expected to start in 2017. Our job, as it has been from the start is to continue to ensure our residents voices are heard, fight for proper compensation for those affected, make sure that the impact on our environment is minimal and that we have a share of any economic benefits should the scheme be imposed on us.

Sticking with transport, bus travel in Stafford is set to get easier thanks to an additional £85,000 funding we’ve been able to secure. The extra money will support the extension of ‘real time passenger information’ (RTPI) for all bus services serving the town centre, giving passengers predicted arrival times for their next bus.
We are all keen to get more people using public transport in the county which helps keep us connected as well as helping reduce congestion on our roads. I am sure you will agree that the more attractive we can make bus travel, the more likely we are to get people to use it.

Electronic display screens have already been fitted to over 20 bus stops around Stafford, giving people scheduled arrival times for their bus journeys, and working with local bus companies, the next stage of the project in the summer, will see the introduction of RTPI.

Local companies interested in raising finance to support their future growth might be interested to learn about a finance event being organised by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership.

The free Finance for Business event is being held on Wednesday May 7 at the Gatehouse Theatre in Stafford from 11am until 2pm. Experts will be explaining the different types of finance available to local businesses and will answer questions about what option is best for the different scenarios.

Staffordshire and Black Country Business Innovation Centre (BIC) will provide information on small business grants including a new fund available within our LEP area. Minerva Business Angel Network will talk about its funding for rapid expansion, including business angel investments. These are two new grants under the local Growth Hub which supports local businesses and is funded by the Regional Growth Fund.

Staffordshire County Council’s Small Business Loans scheme run by BCRS for us, has already supported many companies in the county and BCRS will also be in attendance to talk about non-bank lending.

This will be a very useful event for not only sole traders, but also for more small to medium size businesses. Knowing what finance option is best for your business can be difficult to work out, so this provides a great opportunity to hear from the experts. To book a place at the event or to find out more visit www.nscci.co.uk/events

Another important initiative we’ve launched this week is our Treated Badly campaign which aims to increase awareness of relationship abuse amongst young people and encourage healthy relationships.

The campaign is being supported by Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Ellis along with a range of organisations, including schools. The campaign was launched on Tuesday at Stafford college alongside work shops and advice sessions. Young people already in relationships were invited to take part in an online ‘healthy relationship’ test to help them identify abuse. Parents and teachers are also being urged to get involved. People can find out more on the campaign website at wwww.treatedbadly.co.uk.