Archive for June, 2014

Supporting our local businesses

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Good news for our local businesses as round six of the Regional Growth Fund is announced. The fund being supported by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP is looking for high quality projects that will generate significant private sector investment and help create well paid jobs. We already have a number of local companies benefiting from the fund including Stoke-on-Trent engineering group Goodwin PLC who were awarded £2 million to help the company expand, with 147 jobs due to be created by 2020. The company is building a new facility and 75 of the 125 apprentices scheduled to be trained during the project have already been employed.

Other recent RGF successes include Burntwood-based automotive parts company Maier UK, which could create up to 60 jobs after its successful bid for a new research and development project to develop new products. Round six will be open to private sector bidders seeking £1 million or more who have until 30 September to submit their bids.

More good news for people in Stafford around the beacon business development with works now complete on the busy junction on the A518 east of Stafford. The Business Park extension is an important project for us that could potentially create up to 2,000 jobs and has been made possible by a partnership between ourselves and the developer ISE Estates. With the roadworks funded through Local Pinch Point Fund now complete, major development on site can now start which will triple the park’s size.

During the week, we announced the news that Nick Bell, our Chief Executive would be leaving the Council and moving onto pastures new. Nick has been with us since 2010 and during that time has made a huge contribution to the organisation, improving our services and making efficiency savings, while leading us through some very challenging times.

It has been a pleasure working closely with Nick over the last four years and I’m sure people will join me in thanking him and wishing him well in his next endeavour.

Thanks to Nick’s commitment to innovation, doing things differently, delivering excellent services, while giving value for money for residents we are now recognised as a Council that is leading the way in many areas. Nick will be leaving the Council in October, but until then will continue to lead us as we continue our work in helping people lead happier and healthier lives while giving people access to jobs and the chance to prosper.

Now closer to home for me, it’s pleasing to see that work to Uttoxeter’s leisure centre is on schedule to be completed which will give people a great opportunity to stay fit and healthy.

A warm welcome home for the 3rd Battalion

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Staffordshire has always had a strong history with its armed forces as we look ahead to welcoming our men and women of the 3rd Battalion back from their tour of Afghanistan. They will be marching through our Staffordshire towns over the next week as part of their homecoming parades and I’m sure people will come out to wish them well. We are all very proud of our armed forces and it is always a pleasure to welcome our troops safely back home. They face dangers we cannot begin to comprehend and we are all in their debt for their courage and professionalism.

Stafford is also set to welcome two Signals Regiments and their families back from Germany next year and we have been busy planning for this with our partners. Plans include the building of 346 more MoD homes on Beaconside and preparations for a new 402-place primary school.

Our Armed Forces are also very much part of our local community and local organisations might also be interested to know about funding that’s available through the Armed Forces Community Grant scheme. “The scheme offers funding to support local armed forces, whether serving, veterans or cadets, to be involved in local community’s activities. It is well worth exploring, most organisations are eligible and lots of different services and projects are being considered from small events, to larger refurbishments of buildings. You can find out more about it at www.staffordshire.gov.uk

We’ll also be commemorating Armed Forces Day on 29 June which is another opportunity to reflect on the great sacrifices of our brave troops. This year’s services will be even more poignant as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

As part of the county’s commemoration plans, our Archives team have produced a fasenating guide of Staffordshire’s WWI memorials and to help communities research the ones in their area. Featuring 114 memorials from 72 locations it includes the memorial to War Poet T.E. Hulme of Endon and Lance Corporal William Coltman, the highest decorated non-commissioned officer of the war. The famous Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, unveiled in 2001 to commemorate 307 men executed by firing squad, including men from the Staffordshire Regiments is also featured. You can read more about our WWI commemorations and download the guide at www.staffordshiregreatwar.com

The National Memorial Arboretum will be a focus for the nation’s commemorations over the next four years and we are proud to have it here in our great county. We took the decision as a County Council to fund the site to the tune of £3m over six years, some of which will go towards the new buildings, the Veterans Pavilion and Heroes Square due to be finished at the end of the year.

Your help is needed in making sure our library service is ready for the future

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

As the way Staffordshire people use our libraries continues to change, the county council is looking at proposals to meet those changing needs and we are keen to hear what people think. We know that people who use our library book and music collections love them and we want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come.

We know that the library service itself has changed dramatically over the last decade along with the way that we get our information and it’s vital we move with the times to make sure we have a library service that will be fit for the next decade. We also know that people are using and accessing our libraries in different ways, so we need to find out why and what are they doing instead so we can help shape the new service. Ultimately we need to reinvigorate our libraries so they are better used by people and are delivering the kind of services that people want in this modern age of communication.

We’ve looked at ideas from other areas, recommendations from the Arts Council, and feedback from our first consultation which brought more than 2,300 responses. We’ve taken onboard the feedback and amended the proposals and now we want to discuss them more formally with residents.

Our proposals would mean that more services would be available online while in some areas we would look for local communities to come forward, get more involved, and even run their own library. This is something that is already happening in other parts of the country, including Warwickshire, where it is working well.

The proposals also include investment in our online offer to make it even easier for people to use and to improve compatibility with more electronic devices. We know there’s been a big increase in the use of e-books and the use of e-readers, smart phones and tablets so we want to make sure we support these new ways of accessing information.

I would encourage people to get involved in the consultation and let us know what you think. It starts on 7 July. You can find out more about the proposals at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/libraries/connectedlibraries

Celebrating the work of our volunteers

Friday, June 6th, 2014

This week was National Volunteering Week and I am sure you will join me in celebrating the efforts of the thousands of volunteers who give up their time helping others across the county.

Volunteering takes different forms, from parents who run after school clubs to community health support groups who help so many people. Without volunteers many of these organisations wouldn’t be able to achieve as much, so this week is about celebrating their efforts.

Getting involved in volunteering offers different things to different people. For some, this is the opportunity to learn new skills, build confidence and move closer to the jobs market, for others it is a route to improved health, and for many it is the simple pleasure and satisfaction gained from helping others or ‘putting something back’. We all have skills and knowledge that we can pass on that can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Working together with the voluntary sector, local communities and all our partners including the police, health organisations, other councils and businesses is vital in improving people’s lives. As I have said many times before, community plays a big part in Staffordshire life and as a commissioning council, continuing to work in different ways, the voluntary sector and local organisations have a key role to play in delivering services to local people. We know that in many cases other organisations rather than the county council are better placed to meet the needs of our communities and we will support them to deliver the outcomes we want.

Allowing people to make decisions about their own lives is what we want to happen and working together I firmly believe we can achieve this. Remember volunteers are not paid because they are worthless but because they are priceless.

It is also great to see that work has started on our old building at 17 Eastgate Street in Stafford which by August will be turned into a new voluntary and community hub for the county. Not-for-profit organisation VAST will be the anchor tenant at the new site and will provide support and services to the sector. Volunteers are already on site painting and decorating and helping to breathe new life into the building.

Well done also to two of our employees Martin Stanyer and Ryan Mclean and the other musicians who are helping to ensure that Stephen Sutton’s legacy continues by putting together a tribute song featuring Stephen himself. Many congratulations to them on this fantastic tribute and I certainly hope people support the track to raise even more money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The single went live on Itunes on Monday and has already sold more than 20,000 copies. To download the single go to https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/hope-aint-a-bad-thing-single/id885059470?ls=1.

Fingers crossed for a number one in the charts over the weekend.