Archive for January, 2015

Great news for Staffordshire with latest Growth Deal announcement

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

This week we set out our latest spending proposals for the next five years and budget for 2015/16 which includes an extra £20m for elderly care.

These proposals will help us achieve our aims that I have spoken about many times before: improving health and social care services, giving people access to more better paid jobs and raising standards of education for our young people.

Increasing costs in care is one of the biggest challenges we face, which will be met through a range of savings identified across the council, sensible use of reserves, and, for the first time in four years, a small increase in council tax. Over the next year we will continue to make it our priority to do those things that make the most difference to the lives of Staffordshire people.

If approved by our Cabinet meeting next week the proposals and budget plans go before full council for final approval on 12 February.

More great news for us this week as we have agreed an expansion to our Growth Deal with the Government which will see an extra £15.4m invested in the local area. The announcement is on top of the £82.3m already committed by the Government last July – totalling £97.7m of funding in just six months.

Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal 2015-2021 it is estimated that up to 7,000 new jobs could be created, 1,000 new homes built and that it has the potential to generate £70m public and private investment. The News means even more communities across Staffordshire including Leek, Tamworth, Rugeley and Lichfield can look forward to regeneration of their areas and greater employment opportunities.

The key projects include:

  • The creation of an ‘enterprise quarter’ in Tamworth
  • Construction of a new highway infrastructure to improve access to business and employment sites in Stoke City Centre
  • The refurbishment of London Mill in Leek for employment and housing
  • Improvements to Rugeley Town Centre
  • Regeneration of Friarsgate, Lichfield, for retail and leisure

Our Growth Deal, being driven by our Local Enterprise Partnership is part of a long term plan to devolve at least £12 billion from central government to local economies. The plan aims for every part of the country to be a motor of growth for the wider UK economy – building on the strengths of each area.

Widening opportunity for all and helping raise aspirations with smarter working were behind decisions taken at last week’s Cabinet

Monday, January 26th, 2015

We agreed a new way of providing the best start in life for Staffordshire’s under-fives.  We were only reaching a quarter of families who really needed more help and instead of persuading families to come to their nearest children’s centre, which wasn’t working, we are now going to focus more energy and money on providing the right services, in the right place.

The main aim is to increase the percentage of children ready to start school, while reducing the number involved with social services.  We will keep 11 children’s centres to be developed as Family Hubs supporting children of all ages, transfer management of 35 premises to schools and libraries, and offering 11 for alternative use.  Giving our children the best possible start in life is something we all want to see and this new way of working will help us achieve this.

The Care Act which will be rolled out in April will see sweeping changes across the country, and over the coming months we will be looking at how we implement the changes here in Staffordshire.  One of our key priorities is to ensure people receive the right support to lead healthy, rewarding lives and remain happy and independent, so it’s important we get it right.

In recent years, we have seen even more people choose to receive more tailored, flexible packages of support to suit them, their needs and their lives and it is great to see so many go on to really flourish as part of their own communities.  As we grow older we will all need support of some degree, and the introduction of the Care Act is a huge opportunity to make sure we are able to get the right advice or support when that time comes.

As you may already know we will be hosting the 2015 UK Corporate Games in June and it’s good to hear that we’ve already got over 3,000 competitors from more than 50 top UK companies signed up.  Ernst and Young will be entering their 20th consecutive Games with 200 entrants and Towers Watson will celebrate 10 consecutive years with 150 entrants.  Virgin Trains are set to field over 100 entrants and Vodafone and CSC over 300 entrants each.

While it is wonderful to be able to welcome such high profile companies to the county, I would also like to see some of our own local businesses sign up too.  Hosting the Games is expected to generate over £2.5 million for the local economy and give us a great opportunity to showcase what we have to offer.

This week we are launching our latest fostering campaign which is asking people to foster a child and change a life in 2015.  Every day in Staffordshire more than 700 children live with over 380 foster families because they are unable to live at home.

Whatever their experiences, many of them will be suffering the trauma of being separated from their own families and will need love, support and stability.  Foster carers can provide these children with what they need and over the next year we want to recruit another 60 families.  I would encourage people who have the desire to help and the love to give, to please get in touch with our Fostering service at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/fostering

From roads to sports – now we have lots of young sporting talent

Monday, January 19th, 2015

We all know that good quality roads are important to both residents and businesses alike and just before the Christmas break we got the news of an extra £104m funding for road maintenance over the next six years.

Staffordshire will be getting its share of around £20m per year which will be invested in general road maintenance, surface dressing and resurfacing roads where necessary to help reduce the number of potholes. With a vast rural network stretching across 6,000km, improving the network in Staffordshire is a huge on-going and costly challenge for us.  Over the past five years, the county council has invested an extra £50m to help improve the network. When the weather allows, our highways teams are able to fix around 350 potholes per week.

From roads to sports now and we have lots of young sporting talent here in Staffordshire, which we wish to nurture for future success.  That’s why we’ve introduced our Staffordshire Talented Athlete Fund.  We are making available grants of up to £750 and want to hear from young people who are excelling in their sports.

Staffordshire is fast becoming an area for both national and international sports events.  Next year we’ll be holding the international Staffordshire IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon and hosting the 2015 UK Corporate Games.  To be eligible for the Staffordshire Talented Athlete Fund, young people must live or go to school in Staffordshire.  Further details can be found at www.sportacrossstaffordshire.gov.uk.

It was my privilege on Friday to be able to officially open the Limewood Dementia Centre in Stafford after six years hard work planning and building by all our County Council teams to bring our care vision to fruition.  It’s an impressive sight and is part of the wider £25 million Northfield Village scheme.  The state of the art centre provides residential, respite, nursing and palliative care for people with dementia as well as support services for families and relatives. An interesting part of the centre is the 1950’s style street with its very own barbers shop, Fox and Duck pub and even a cinema. This helps create a familiar and comfortable setting for residents and their families when they visit.

The Northfield Village scheme combines Extra Care, Dementia Care, an NHS Health Centre, Community Hub, and Learning Disability supported accommodation.  It’s a great example of what can be achieved through partnership working and how specialist services and accommodation can be brought together in the heart of a community.

Looking ahead to 2015

Monday, January 12th, 2015

I would like to start by wishing all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year

As you can see from my previous post, a great deal has been achieved in 2014, of which we should all be very proud. Many people are able to enjoy a better quality of life as a result of more and better paid jobs with a reduction in unemployment, helped by major growth projects such as i54 and big changes to how we run as a Council.

As I have said many times before, Staffordshire continues to be a great place to live, work, visit and invest in. Most people in the county enjoy a good quality of life.  We’re a county with great people, a proud history and heritage, huge potential and big plans for the future.

I am looking forward to 2015 and what it will bring. Whilst we know there will be many challenges ahead and tough decisions to be made, there are also many exciting opportunities. Working with partners, communities, families and individuals, we can deliver a better Staffordshire for everyone, whilst at the same time responding to the financial pressures we all face.

This year I want to see more Staffordshire children attending good and outstanding schools, even more better paid jobs, improved health services, more support to help people to remain independent and greater connectivity, as our Superfast broadband rollout progresses.

We are looking forward to welcoming our armed forces and their families from Germany, our new Chief Executive John Henderson, the IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon and the 2015 UK Corporate Games, to name but a few.

Let’s address the challenges, take these opportunities and work together to make Staffordshire even better.

 

Highlights of 2014

Monday, January 5th, 2015

With a population of 850,000, more than 28,000 businesses large and small, outstanding natural beauty and the good fortune of a central position in the UK, the great county of Staffordshire has many assets to capitalise on, but for me the greatest one is its people.

It’s the council’s duty to foster the conditions necessary to create and sustain good, better paid jobs, so residents can be healthy and lead their own lives in their community, in the knowledge that the council is willing and able to help where needed.

We can never rest on our laurels, but I believe 2014 shows the county is firmly heading in the right direction, while its people remain inspirational.  Here are some of the highlights from the last twelve months.

JANUARY: The year got off to a good start, with the news that the number of Staffordshire students getting good GCSE results had risen for the sixth consecutive year, with 59.9 per cent of young people in Staffordshire gained five or more A* to C grades including English and maths, which was an increase of 1.2 per cent on the previous year.

FEBRUARY: The first communities in the county to benefit from the £27.9m Superfast Staffordshire fibre broadband partnership were unveiled. Residents and businesses in Ash Bank, Clifton Campville, Kings Bromley, Marchington, Yarnfield and Yoxall could expect faster download and upload speeds, along with premises in Rugeley and Colton, and in parts of Burntwood, Heath Hayes, and Penkridge. The Superfast Staffordshire partnership between Staffordshire County Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme is providing access to high-speed broadband to more than 88,000 homes and businesses in mainly rural area.

MARCH: Government ministers approved the historic City Deal, releasing £30.9m, which when combined with private sector investment and other programmes could see £113m invested in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent over the next decade and the creation of up to 20,000 jobs. The deal, called Powerhouse Central, focuses on providing a stable supply of affordable energy. Other key measures include bringing schools, colleges and universities together with employers to make sure people have the right skills and training, as well as creating thousands of apprenticeships and traineeships; developing sites for new business or existing business to expand into; and supporting business to innovate and develop the next generation of products or materials.

APRIL: Parents wanting the best education for their children received welcome news when Staffordshire County Council revealed that nine out of 10 children would be going to their parents’ first choice primary school, and 97 per cent had been allocated a place at one of their top three preferences. The news followed March’s announcement that 96 per cent of parents have been allocated their first choice secondary school, with 99 per cent allocated one of their top three preferred schools.

MAY: Mourners travelled from near and far to pay their respects to inspirational Burntwood teenage cancer fundraiser Stephen Sutton, whose body lay in ‘a place of honour’ at Lichfield Cathedral. Stephen, who died of cancer aged 19, had captured the nation’s hearts with his determination to live life to the full and raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The Facebook post announcing his death was shared more than 120,000 times in an hour, as donations in his memory soared, passing the £4 million with days of his passing.

JUNE: Demand for the first ever IRONMAN® triathlon event in Staffordshire saw places sell out within minutes of them being released. Attracted by the prospect of a flat, fast picturesque course in the heart of the UK, places were taken within 14 minutes after more than 8,000 people asked to be notified when the entry list went live. Organised jointly with the county council, the IRONMAN® 70.3 Staffordshire triathlon will take place on 14th June 2015, and include a 1.2-mile swim in Chasewater reservoir; a 56-mile bike course through the stunning countryside outside Lichfield, Burton-upon-Trent and across Cannock Chase; before concluding with a 13.1 mile run starting and finishing at the historic Shugborough country estate.

JULY:  Uttoxeter swimmer Adam Peaty announced himself to the world by winning two gold medals and one silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The 19-year-old’s glorious year also included four European titles at the Berlin championships and two world records. The teenager’s year ended on a high, shortlisted for BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards, screened live to the nation.

AUGUST: It was time for the traditional great holiday getaway, but despite the millions of journeys made, the roads in Staffordshire were among the safest in the country. The latest figures showed a year-on-year reduction of 25.3 per cent in the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads – making them the second safest in the country. Reasons cited for the success included safety campaigns on rural roads and 20mph limits outside schools.

SEPTEMBER: The shutters flew up on school kitchens across the county to reveal more than £2m of work had been completed to ensure every child in reception and Years One and Two could have a free school meal. Work was done at more than 150 schools in readiness for the surge in demand, which saw the number of daily meals made by the county’s schools services provider Entrust rise from around 24,000 in July to more than 33,000 in September.

OCTOBER: 2014 was the year that the Jobseeker’s Allowance Statistics showed Staffordshire’s economic policies were paying dividends. The 1.2 per cent figure announced in October prompted celebration as, at the time, it was the lowest for seven years. Figures released in December would show that the JSA claimant rate kept falling to the end of the year, finishing at 1.0 per cent; compared to the West Midlands regional rate of 2.5 per cent.

NOVEMBER: Staffordshire warmly welcomed Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to the county to officially open two businesses at its latest landmark development. Her Majesty, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, gave her approval to Jaguar Land Rover’s new engine manufacturing centre at i54 South Staffordshire and to a new facility for hi-tech printing firm International Security Printers.  The landmark site is a partnership between Staffordshire County Council, Wolverhampton City Council and South Staffordshire Council.

DECEMBER: People around the world were entranced by the letter unearthed in Staffordshire’s County archives, written on Christmas Day 1914 by an Army General to his wife. Audiences in Australia and the United States were among those who were fascinated by the contemporary account of Sir Walter Congreve VC, which told of men mingling in No Man’s Land in northern France, smoking cigars and exchanging pleasantries, plus an account of how one of the legendary football matches was already the talk of the trenches.