Archive for June, 2015

How sports are helping showcase the county’s investment potential

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

It’s been another busy week for us with yet another major event for the county.  The big news over the weekend was the huge success of the UK Corporate Games which attracted over 4,000 competitors from around 100 top UK companies.   This gave us a wonderful opportunity to show off Staffordshire’s investment potential. Swimming, running and the Dragon Boat racing at Trentham Gardens were amongst the sports action on Saturday and saw one of our own members take a medal in the swimming -nothing like the home advantage!

Our Make It Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent team met with representatives from top blue chip companies  and talked about our inward investment opportunities and plans for the future.  For many of these it would have seemed that Staffordshire may not have been an obvious choice for them as a business location . However, having seen the county for themselves and seen how we’re prepared to work with business to make things happen, I’m sure Staffordshire will now be much further up the lists for future expansion locations.

Saturday was Armed Forces Day and as part of our commitment to our armed forces and their families we re-signed the Staffordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant.  The declaration aims to build a relationship where the military draws support from the community and in return the Armed Forces offer their skills and expertise to benefit local people.  Joining us in signing the covenant were military leaders, local district and borough councils, the NHS, Police, Fire and representatives from the community and voluntary sectors.

After the original Covenant was signed in May 2011, twelve local organisations shared funding worth £555,000.  The money was used for a range of local projects which are now benefiting both forces personnel and local communities.

This month we saw the opening of the new £1.4m Futures Centre on the Rodbaston campus at South Staffordshire College.  The centre caters for young people with learning disabilities and  provides Post-16 learning, vocational training and independent living skills.

As well as a modern learning and training area and treatment facilities, learners can also access other on-site facilities such as the visitors centre, the farm, equine and horticultural areas.  This all helps to  build the young people’s confidence, broaden their  experiences and increase their independence.  Having a new centre in Staffordshire also means that young people do not have to go out of county to get the support they need.

And finally, we are reviewing our mobile library service and are asking for people’s views and suggestions on some initial proposals.  Demand for this part of the library service has really fallen in recent years and at a time when we are spending millions of pounds more on providing care for the old and vulnerable, we need to look at other innovative ways of delivering the service and save money.

We are looking at prioritising the service for those who need it most. Ideas include maintaining a service for deprived areas and retaining popular stops, which are more than two miles from an existing library building.  The consultation starts on 1 July and I would encourage people to have their say which they can do at the mobile service, at one of 36 drop-in sessions across the county, in their local library or online at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/mobilelibraries<http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/mobilelibraries

800 years since Magna Carta and 200 years since Waterloo

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

It is quite a busy time at the County Council at the moment, perhaps more so than usual with a number of key decisions and significant dates such as 800 years since Magna Carta and 200 years since Waterloo, both significant dates in our national history.

On Thursday we signed a ground breaking deal worth £10m to unlock value from empty and under-used council and police buildings.  The Penda Property Partnership includes the County Council, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Office and industry leader Kier.  The innovative deal will help us tap into the value of poorly used public buildings, allowing us to raise funding to support our key priorities such as providing care for the elderly.

The new, fresh approach will see buildings revitalised and marketed to offer new jobs, homes and developments.  It will allow more flexibility, greater commercial freedom and has the potential to be rolled out with other partners to improve services and bring investment and growth to the county.

This Saturday (27 June) is Armed Forces Day and we’ll be joining the nation to show our support for the brave men and women who make up the Armed Forces community.  In the week leading up to the commemorations we have a series of events starting with the raising of the Armed Forces flag over County Buildings in Stafford.  Visitors to Staffordshire Place will also be able to browse a range of exciting displays of projects supporting armed forces personnel and their families.

The Stafford Armed Forces, Past & Present project documents the stories of veterans and current serving personnel from MOD Stafford, while the ‘Front Line – Soldiers of Staffordshire’ project by the Staffordshire Regiment Museum has seen the construction of a German trench and a new education programme for school children.

A special business start-up programme which will give armed forces families advice and support to start up and run their own business will also be on hand during the week.  On Thursday with our partners we will be re-signing the Staffordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant which will re-affirm our commitment to encourage good relations between military staff and local communities.

With an increasing number of military personnel at Lichfield and in Stafford, attractions like the Memorial Arboretum, Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire continues to play its role in both supporting and honouring our armed forces.

Sticking with the military but going back 200 years, we celebrated the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo by unveiling a series of rare documents highlighting Staffordshire’s connections to the famous battle.  Letters, eye witness accounts, a charter praising Uxbridge’s bravery and sufferings, a map of Napoleon’s grave and a diary reporting the battle from the Homefront are amongst the documents brought together in the new exhibition.

It’s a fascinating collection of records that offer a valuable insight into the bloody but decisive battle.  Henry Paget was lord Uxbridge, whose family were from Beaudesert in Staffordshire which is a nice local connection.  The documents include an address from local people in Burton-upon-Trent, sent to Lord Uxbridge commending him on his bravery and a letter of response from him to similar praise from the people of Colwich.  A diary kept by Mrs Hervey from Acton Trussell also provides a unique account of life on the home front as news of the victory filters through along with details of the many who had died on the day.

The Exhibition will be touring selected Staffordshire libraries until October 2015.

Sporting in Staffordshire

Monday, June 15th, 2015

A big congratulations to everyone who took part in the IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire on Sunday in what was an amazing day and huge success.  The day started with the swim at Chasewater at 7am and then on to the bike ride and finally the run around the Shugborough Estate, with the weather holding up nicely for the 2,000 plus competitors.

It was great to welcome World Champion Javier Gomez who won the overall race, Lucy Gossage who won the women’s race and not to forget celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his wife Tanya, competing together as part of their GR100 fundraising team.

We were delighted to be able to host the event which gave us a great opportunity to showcase to people what a great county Staffordshire really is.  A big thanks also to everyone who came out to cheer on the athletes, the staff and all the volunteers who helped make it a real success.  I’m sure people are already looking forward to next year’s event.

If Sunday’s IRONMAN event has inspired people to get more active then national Bike Week may help provide that extra bit of motivation and information to get out and about on your bike.  The campaign running this week wants to see more people on their bikes cycling for work and leisure.  There has never been a better time to dust off the saddle and with the good weather here, I’d encourage people to get out and about to explore our great county on a bike.

Bike week also comes as the county prepares for the third Staffordshire Cycling Festival and news that ‘Team Wiggins, the team of the 2012 Tour de France Champion’ are coming to Stafford. The team will join over 100 professional cyclists when they take to the county’s roads for the competition on 3 and 4 July.  Staged across Stafford Town Centre and the Shugborough Estate, the action packed weekend is a celebration of cycling featuring both professional races and opportunities for everyone to get involved. New for the Friday, in Stafford Town Centre is Free-Ride Friday. This is the opportunity for families and individuals to ride the Stafford GP circuit.  For more details on the event visit: www.ridestaffs.co.uk

This week is also the start of Adult Learners Week when thousands of Staffordshire residents will celebrate their success in learning while encouraging others to do the same.  Over the last 12 months almost 14,000 county residents have taken courses designed to either help people improve their job prospects, help them  take the first steps back into education, to improve the English of those recently arrived from overseas, or to simply build confidence.

For some people these are often basic qualifications that allow them to take the next step towards getting a recognised qualification or further learning and skills they need for the job they want.  There are lots of events taking place in the county’s libraries and full details can be found at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/librariesnew/Adultlearnersweek.aspx .

Final Countdown to IRONMAN

Monday, June 8th, 2015

I have spoken about this many times before but the event is now only a matter of days away.  This Sunday is the first Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire triathlon.   With over 2,000 competitors and more than 70 miles of spectating opportunity, the county is set to come alive on race day.  It’s a great opportunity to come out, enjoy the action, and soak up the atmosphere.   Ironman champion Javier Gomez, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and TV presenter Jonathan Ross will line up with the rest of the competitors to take on the sporting endurance challenge.

This is a great event for the county, our economy, for local businesses and for charity and I do hope people will come along and cheer on the competitors.

From one great sporting event to another – we are also looking forward to hosting the 2015 Corporate Games later in the month.  As I have mentioned before, the Games are Europe’s biggest sports event for business and having them in Staffordshire will help showcase the county.  Organisers are now offering individuals and sporting organisations the opportunity to be a volunteer at the Games.  As a volunteer, you’ll play a key role in making it a real success and there’s lots of different roles you can help out with, ensuring you’re right in the middle of the action.  You can find out more at www.corporate-games.com<http://www.corporate-games.com>

Some good news for around 4,000 more homes and businesses that will be able to receive high-speed fibre broadband following an additional £2.31m investment.  So far, the project has brought Superfast broadband to more than 43,000 premises.  The communities to benefit from this new funding will include: Calton, Dunstall, Ellenhall, Hanbury, Harlaston, Marston, Newborough, Rangemoor, Swindon, Tattenhill, Wetton, Whitgreave and Yarlet.

Whether it’s people working from home, local businesses or families all connecting to the internet at the same time – everything is easier, faster and better with fibre broadband.

Another successful County Show

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

On Wednesday and Thursday I was lucky enough to get along to this year’s County Show and, with the Bishop of Stafford as Show President fixing the weather, yet again it didn’t disappoint.  The days provided a great opportunity for the county’s farmers, tourism businesses, food and drink producers to show off their wares and for the public to see what’s going on in the county and to sample some of the county’s finest produce.  With the Bulldogs motorcycle show, the cattle and dog showing and all the other activities and displays the show was a great success and one of the busiest ever.  Staffordshire is 80% rural and the rural economy plays an important role in our overall economy, so it’s important to celebrate this.

In the county council marquee, our county farms team, which has just taken on its latest tenant, were promoting the work of its 102 farmers and their contribution to the local economy.  Also talking to people was the Superfast Staffordshire broadband team, which is in the process of overseeing the delivery of a £28 million project which will see 95 per cent of properties able to access superfast broadband speeds by the end of 2016.

We also launched two exciting resources in the ‘Fit for Farming manual’ and ‘Ruropoly’, a new board game to help highlight issues affecting rural communities.

The ‘Fit for Farming’ manual has been designed to help farmers look after their health and combat the high rates of stress in the profession.  The booklet will give farmers the tools to help manage their physical and mental health, and point them to services that will help them in times of crisis.

As an arable and sheep farmer myself, farming and rural issues are very close to my heart. Farm life continues to be busy and hectic, and any illness within those farming communities can have a terrible impact on individuals and the family concerned as well as the business.  Farmers are working harder and longer and have to rely on others more for help and support, so the good health and wellbeing of farming families and the extended workforce is always a very important issue for Staffordshire.

Ruropoly is a new board game designed to help promote rural issues and will be used by both young people and adults in schools, and in community groups.  Players move around the board   landing on both opportunities and questions, all highlighting issues affecting rural communities, the economy and environment and also the impact of decision making on them.  It’s a fun way of helping people understand the importance of the rural economy for Staffordshire.