Archive for October, 2014

Winter preparations underway and Royal approval for i54 South Staffordshire

Monday, October 27th, 2014

You might not feel it at the moment, but the colder weather is not far away and our gritting and snow plough crews are gearing up for its arrival. Operation Snowflake launched last week which marks the “official” start of winter for us. Teams have been refreshed on their procedures and drills. And, we have been overhauling the 40 plus strong gritting fleet to ensure they are ready to roll into action when needed.

We have the largest gritting network in the West Midlands and grit 43 per cent of our 6,000km of highways. We have six winter maintenance depots in Stone, Stafford, Leek, Gailey, Lichfield and Hemmingslow with 28,000 tonnes of salt stock piled. Our nine weather stations across the county will also be keeping a close eye on the weather and helping crews plan the necessary action.

Our crews always do a fantastic job helping to keep the county safely on the move and it is vital that we are prepared for whatever winter has in store for us. While it is still quite mild, the teams will be continuing with daily highway operations, but it is great to know they are good to go when needed.

This week we will be welcoming the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who will be visiting i54 South Staffordshire to officially open the Jaguar Land Rover engine manufacturing centre. Her Royal Highness will also be opening stamp printing company – International Security Printers Limited who have located on the site.

Our joint investment at i54 has secured hundreds of millions of pounds of further investment and brought thousands of jobs to the area, and I am sure you will join in our delight at this royal seal of approval to the businesses on site.

Growth deal set to create thousands of jobs for the future

Friday, October 17th, 2014

On Tuesday we welcomed the news of additional investment to improve facilities at the County Hospital, the new name for Stafford’s hospital once the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust is dissolved in November.

 

The campaign to keep services here in Stafford showed us clearly how much people value their local hospital and it is positive news to see the facilities improved further.  Ultimately, we would like to see our County Hospital become known as a beacon for delivering quality care for residents as part of a very different, positive story of improving healthcare across the county.

 

In more health news, a recent report on dementia highlighted that not enough was being done to develop standards of care around the condition and one in three people will be affected by it.  However, here in Staffordshire, we have already been working to meet the challenges faced by a growing need for effective dementia care. New community dementia hubs will transform the way residents in Staffordshire receive care and support for the condition throughout their lives.

 

Our new centres of excellence in Burton and Lichfield will allow families to access community support, specialist dementia services and nursing care on the same site.  Added to this, I recently paid a visit to the new Limewood Dementia Centre in Stafford—part of the £25 million Northfield Village development—which is already offering state-of-the-art care to those living with dementia.

 

We want to give people coping with dementia a better quality of life and dignity as their condition changes. Our approach will mean that we are ready to meet the challenges that dementia poses to individuals, their families and the wider community, and will ensure we are well prepared to meet future challenges.

 

On Thursday we welcomed cities minister Greg Clark MP to the county to sign the £82.2million Growth Deal, one of the largest Government Deals in the country.  The Deal would see the creation of 11,000 better paid new jobs following major business and supporting transport development in the area.  It is estimated that the growth deal will bring a further £10million from public and private sector investment.

 

This is a hugely important piece of work to give more of us the opportunity to lead better lives.  The deal was announced back in early July and development work could begin as early as April.  The key projects include the Etruria Valley Enterprise Area (creating up to 2,500 jobs), Lichfield Park employment site (1,100 jobs), Meaford employment site near Stone (2,200 jobs) and Bericote Four Ashes employment site in South Staffordshire (1,080 jobs). There will also be £16.1million investment to construct the Stafford Western Access Route which we are now consulting on.

 

The following year will see a major development at Branston Locks near Burton leading to potentially 3,800 jobs and 2,500 new homes.  In addition to all this, the investment will support our Local Enterprise Partnership’s Advanced Manufacturing Skills Hub – providing the skills and engineers needed by businesses and increasing traineeships and apprenticeships opportunities.

Three Lions legend launches UK Corporate Games

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

On Monday evening we saw the launch of the 2015 UK Corporate Games along with legendary goalkeeper and World Cup winner Gordon banks. Gordon is the Sports Patron for next year’s Games which are being held here in the county.

The Games are the world’s largest multi-sport event for businesses, and are taking place in 30 countries across five continents. Last year, more than one million people from 22,000 organisations took part.

It’s great that we are hosting the Games which will give us a fantastic opportunity to showcase our region as a dynamic, forward thinking and productive area where we welcome business, promote growth and support local people to take advantage of our economic prosperity. Any businesses interested in taking part can register or find out more online by searching for UK Corporate Games.

Over the weekend we saw another major milestone in our i54 south Staffordshire project, with the completion of the eastbound slip road onto the motorway junction. The westbound new link roads from the A449 to the motorway at junction two are already open and work is on schedule for opening by the end of November.

This is an important aspect of the site as it provides direct access onto the M54 and the motorway network – a major attraction to businesses which need the best connections possible.

The site is already a thriving business hub with two hi tech companies already established there, Moog and Eurofins. Moog, with 400 skilled employees manufacturing flight control systems and Eurofins, a leading scientific testing and analysis company, where 150 more people work. Later this month we’ll also see the opening of the new JLR engine manufacturing centre.

The winter is almost upon us which usually means more cases of flu., but this year we’re taking part in a national pilot scheme to reduce the number of school children catching it. Over the next few months around 17,000 year 7 and 8 pupils will be offered the free flu vaccination. School nurses will be giving the vaccination through a nasal spray, which to many pupils delight means no needles. As well as protecting pupils themselves, the vaccination will also help to reduce the spread of flu and protect younger siblings, grandparents and others who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu. We will be working hard with our public health partners to ensure the immunisation programme runs as smoothly as possible, and as many children who are eligible for the vaccine are able to access it.

In the latest HS2 news, I’m pleased to announce that our efforts to lessen the impact of Phase one of the project on our communities are paying off and recommendations we put forward are being taken on board. The changes the Government have agreed to will now see the lowering of the route near at Hints as well as under the A38, West Coast Main Line and South Staffordshire Railway and in the vicinity of the Trent & Mersey Canal and near the village of Hints.

From the outset we have put all our efforts into getting the best deal we can for the whole of Staffordshire. While this is undoubtedly good news our priority is to continue exploring further mitigating options, help win meaningful compensation for those affected and ensure Staffordshire shares in any economic benefits of the scheme.

Wedgwood Collection to remain in Staffordshire

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

I am sure you would be as pleased as me to hear that the fundraising challenge to help keep the Wedgwood Collection here in Staffordshire has achieved its goal. I’ve said before that it’s crucial that the collection of ceramic masterpieces remain in the region and I was pleased that the County Council were able to play their part, pledging £100,000 to the fund. Raising the final £2.74m now means that the collection gets to stay in Staffordshire where it belongs.

 
The Collection is very much a testament to the historic and cultural past of Staffordshire and as a county we couldn’t just stand by and let these treasured masterpieces be lost forever. They’re remaining here for the nation to view, enjoy and learn from.

 

Last week we also got the news that legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks will be the patron for the UK Corporate Games being held in the county next year. The event, in June, is expected to attract thousands of amateur sports people from some of the top UK companies. It also gives us the chance to show-off our many inward investment opportunities to some key movers and shakers from the business world.

 

Gordon made 628 professional appearances over a 15 year period and won 73 caps for his country. He also led Stoke City Football Club to their League Cup win in 1972 and was voted FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year for six years.

 

Now, Gordon will be taking to the stage to officially launch the Games later in the month at Keele Hall. David Frost, Chair of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership, has also been confirmed as Business patron for the Games.

 

October is a busy month for campaigns, what with International Walk to School Month, National Tyre Safety Month and not to mention Stoptober. Our Public Health Team are busy encouraging the county’s smokers to sign up for Stoptober – the annual stop smoking challenge, to help people give up. If you have taken the challenge, I hope you’re doing well. Last year 3,358 people in the county signed up, which was a huge number and one of the highest responses in the West Midlands. If you’re a smoker and have not signed up yet, it’s not too late so go for it. It is a great opportunity to make a serious quit attempt with the support of friends and family and really there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving it a go!