Archive for September, 2015

Exciting plans being considered to ease traffic and support more homes in the county town

Monday, September 28th, 2015

People who know Stafford will know how congested the town can be at times so news that the new Stafford Western Access Route project is now being considered by planners is a positive step.  The plans are being considered by the County Council’s Planning Committee this week.

The scheme, which is well over due, will connect the A518 Newport Road with the A34 Foregate Street.  The project will also include a low viaduct over the River Sow to link up with Doxey and Tillington Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The project is part of the Government’s Growth Deals secured by the Local Enterprise Partnership and if the plans are approved we could see work start as soon as next year.

You can keep up to date with roadworks across the county at http://staffordshire.roadworks.org

Sticking with the county town, last month I spoke about welcoming the signal’s regiments and their families to the town and the opening of the new Veritas school.  Well the next Chapter in the story unveiled last week with the completion of the £150m redevelopment of the Beacon barracks.

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the site which is for both service personnel and their families and I have to say it’s pretty impressive.  Over 340 new homes (built in around one year), other living accommodation blocks, Officers Mess, operations and leisure facilities all available on site.

The redevelopment work was all part of the Army’s BORONA Programme to relocate troops back to the UK from Germany.  As I have said before, the move is great news for the town and will provide a real boost for the local economy, helping to secure and create more local jobs.  I’m sure people will join me in making the families very welcome.

Work on exciting plans gets underway at the National Memorial Arboretum

Monday, September 21st, 2015

As I have said many times before we are all incredibly proud to have the National Memorial Arboretum here in Staffordshire and it’s great to see work get underway on their exciting plans.  It really is a beautiful and lasting tribute to those who serve their country, die in conflict or have a special reason for being remembered.

The existing visitor centre was designed for just 60,000 visitors per annum and the Arboretum now welcomes around 300,000 which is testament to the original vision. As a result, a fundraising campaign was launched with the aim of transforming the facilities to be able to welcome even more visitors.

The County Council has already pledged £3m towards the project and will continue to support it to help it achieve its aim of becoming a world class centre of remembrance.  The whole project, costing nearly £16 million, will provide more fitting, higher quality buildings and infrastructure, improvements to reception, shop and café, and dedicated education facilities for up to 25,000 children each year.  The work is expected to be finished at the end of 2016 but the memorial will remain open during the work.

Most people will be aware that we are developing a new structure for our library service and finding different ways of running some of our libraries.  This is all part of our long-term plan to re-energise our library service after years of declining use.

Twenty of our 43 libraries will be managed and staffed by the library service, with 23 being supported in the community and we have named the organisations set to take over the management and delivery of 11 of them.  These include South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust who will take over eight, Rising Brook Baptist Church in Stafford, and voluntary groups in Werrington and Blythe Bridge.

We were very impressed with the quality of the applications, all demonstrating the skills needed to manage a library, plus the ideas and enthusiasm to develop them so they remain relevant to their local communities.  The first transfers will take place in the next few months and I’m sure as other groups see the process in action and what support is on offer, we will see more groups coming forward.

And more great news this month with the county’s job seekers allowance claimant count falling to its lowest number at 0.8%.  This is due to our work in growing the number of jobs in the county’s key sectors and focusing on increasing people’s skills.

One of the things we are doing to support growth and expansion is to support small companies through our Business loans Fund which we will be extending for an additional three years.  It provides loans ranging from £10,000 to £50,000 for viable businesses based in Staffordshire.  The fund has led to over 1,000 jobs being created or safeguarded since it was set up in 2009.  Businesses can find out more by calling 0300 111 8002.

At our last Cabinet meeting we also approved the creation of a new £15.4 million public sector hub for Newcastle which will help boost the town’s economy and free up land for a major retail development.  As well as saving taxpayers’ money, the hub would also improve access for residents by bringing together several services under one roof.

The hub would be built on the site of the former St Giles’ and St George’s school adjoining Barracks Road and fronting Queens Gardens.  This would then free up the space for the £27.1 million retail development and student accommodation on the site of the former Sainsbury’s supermarket and current Newcastle Borough Council civic offices.

The projects are part of the recently-signed joint working agreement between the county and borough authorities, known as District Deal 2 which will focus on boosting Newcastle and Kidsgrove town centres, providing backing for rural areas and support for Keele University’s development.

New primary school for Stafford opens to ease pressure on school places in the town

Friday, September 11th, 2015

September is an exciting and busy time for most parents with children either starting school or going back after the summer holiday. But for the Signal Regiment families recently moved to Stafford from Germany the excitement is even greater.
The new Veritas academy at Beaconside opened its doors this week for the first time welcoming over 170 children, not only from forces families but also local families from the north of the town.

The primary school has been built to ease pressure on school places in the north of Stafford and will be run by the Reach2 Academy Trust, which already sponsors a number of successful academy schools across the county. It has taken around ten months to build and having had a recent tour of the facilities I was pleased that everything was in place for the start of the new school year.

With its full intake the new £5.4m school will cater for around 420 pupils and 52 nursery children helping provide much needed school places in the town.

Parents with a two year old may also be interested to hear about our think2 scheme which provides 15 hours free childcare per week. Record numbers of toddlers have already taken advantage of the places at nurseries, preschools and with childminders, and there are now more places available for the September term.

Getting children access to high quality childcare is great for their development and prepares them much better for school. Freeing up valuable time for parents also means they can get back to work, retrain, do a course or learn new skills at college. Parents on Working Tax Credits and whose household income is below £16,190 are eligible for the free places. People can check if they are eligible at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/think2 or call 0300 111 8007.

On Wednesday we all witnessed an incredible royal milestone and momentous achievement in our history as the Queen became the longest reigning British Monarch. We were all delighted with the news and we congratulate her on this achievement.

The Queen has made many trips to Staffordshire during her reign, including visits to Lichfield Cathedral, the National Memorial Arboretum, St Mary’s Church and County Buildings in Stafford and more recently to the i54 South Staffordshire site in 2014 where I had the delight of meeting her then. There will now be a special service to honour her achievement at St. Mary’s Church in Stafford on Saturday.

And while we remember the dedication of our Queen to our country, there are thousands of carers in Staffordshire either working in the sector or looking after a close relative and we want to recognise those providing the highest standards of care.

Our Dignity Awards aim to celebrate and reward carers, care organisations, volunteers and students across Staffordshire who put dignity at the heart of everything they do. These are the people we want to recognise, so if you know of someone or an organisation who always goes that extra mile to treat people with respect then please nominate them at: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/dignityincare. The closing date for nominations is 6 January 2016 and the Awards Ceremony will be held on Thursday 3 March 2016.

New Stafford Library

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

It really was an exciting week last week, with the countdown to the opening of our new Stafford Library now really underway.

Last Friday I was l lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the fantastic new premises. It is an incredibly vibrant and attractive space that I know everyone will be proud of.

Apart from the wide range of books available, there are touchscreen tables, large computer tablets and two state-of-the-art 3D printers. There are computers available with free Wi-Fi access, a space with a projector for gatherings or story-telling and much more and it’s all on one floor for ease of use.

You don’t just have to take my word for it – members of the public can also take a special guided preview tour this weekend and get an ‘access-all-areas’ opportunity and be amongst the first to see the brand new Stafford library.

The tours will take place on Saturday 5th September, but spaces are limited so call on of our Customer Service Team on 0300 111 8000 to reserve your space.

The new facility is a great example of how libraries can be used flexibly to meet the changing needs of local communities, whilst ensuring continued access to lots of books and thousands of e-books from the wider library network.

It really does have something to benefit everyone, whether you are a resident, visitor to the town, community group, and local businesses looking to learn, create and socialise.

The library will officially open its doors on Wednesday 9th September and is based on the ground floor of the county council building at Staffordshire Place.

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The summer holidays will soon be coming to an end, but it’s not too late to take some time out with the family and enjoy a great day out in Staffordshire.

There are always enjoyable family days out to be had at the Shugborough Estate, Weston Park and Chasewater and historic buildings to visit like Tamworth Castle and Lichfield Cathedral. And of course we have two of the country’s leading theme parks, Alton Towers in the north of the county and Drayton Manor Park in Tamworth

Last year alone almost 25 million people, from home and abroad, enjoyed day or overnight trips to our county. This helped generate a fantastic £1.1 billion in direct spend on accommodation, entertainment, travel, shopping and food and drink.

You can find out more about what Staffordshire has to offer at:  www.enjoystaffordshire.com