Archive for October, 2015

Econominc growth

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

This month we saw the launch of a landmark partnership between the Cheshire and Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnerships, to deliver the Northern Gateway Development Zone.

The strategic vision is to stimulate economic growth in the region, maximizing the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine and taking advantage of the investment potential arising from the HS2 station when it is announced. Unlocking the investment opportunities could help deliver more than 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs by 2040 which would be great for the area.

I have spoken about this many times before – in Staffordshire, we already have a reputation of working with our partners and neighbours to create new jobs and deliver economic growth. This new partnership presents a further opportunity alongside the work Midland’s Connect is already doing to build on this success story and ensure we get the best deal for Staffordshire and its people.

Showcasing Staffordshire and it’s huge investment potential was also top of the agenda at this year’s MIPIM UK event.   Representatives from our Local Enterprise Partnership and ‘Make it Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’ have been meeting with Ministers, leading businesses and industry leaders, with some very positive feedback. I also got the chance to catch up with Brandon Lewis MP about the wider role of local government in supporting economic growth.

Speakers from Kier, Stoford and Keele, Penda property partnership, the Liberty Park development, and Midland’s Connect all gave presentations on the opportunities available. A key focus for us this year was looking at development opportunities in the hotel sector, with Colin Bryan from Drayton Manor Park giving a speech about their experiences of developing a 4 star hotel at the park.

JCB is one of Staffordshire’s truly remarkable manufacturing success stories and we were all incredibly proud to be able to celebrate their 70th anniversary last week. With its roots firmly planted in Staffordshire and its global headquarters in Rocester, their story is one of continuous innovation and hard work.

In its seven decades, the company has gone from strength to strength and remains a major employer in the county, continuing to develop people’s skills in our key sectors of engineering and manufacturing. We look forward to the coming decades of continuing success, innovation and the creation of the next generation of engineers.

Showcasing the best of Staffordshire at this year’s MIPIM UK event

Monday, October 19th, 2015

It’s business as usual for our Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent inward investment team as they once again prepare to showcase our area to businesses and developers from across the UK and internationally.

This week’s event at MIPIM UK at the Olympia in London, is an important one to be at, as it is the country’s largest exhibition and conference for property professionals.  Staff along with the Local Enterprise Partnership will be promoting our many business development sites and highlighting why high quality companies big and small are locating here in Staffordshire.

We are already home to global leaders like Jaguar Land Rover and JCB, but we are now attracting more and more smaller firms in our key sector industries at our new innovation sites like Keele.  As I have mentioned before, we have invested over £600m in new business parks, road and rail improvements so that the county continues to be a magnet for thriving enterprise, be it pioneering start-ups or global high-flyers. Staffordshire is very much a ‘business-class’ location.

The reason why is simple, at the same time we have invested heavily in skills development and specialist training facilities to ensure that Staffordshire people can continue to access better jobs and feel the benefits of economic growth.  This month’s jobseekers figures for Staffordshire remain at an all-time low and are testament to the work being done to attract more better paid jobs.

Good news too for parents and children in my division at Rocester, as work has started on a brand new development that will bring two local schools together under the one roof.

The new £7million school will see Ryecroft CE Middle School and Dove First School brought together in the same building, while still remaining as separate schools.  The project will provide a wonderful new facility for both pupils and teachers, allowing staff to share expertise and resources, as well as allowing an easier transition for children from one school up to the other.

The move will then allow JCB to acquire the 11 acre Ryecroft School site, which is next to their headquarters.  The acquisition will help to move on its previously announced expansion projects, which include plans to develop a new in-house training facility to support apprenticeship and graduate training programmes.  This is further evidence of the work going on across the county to make sure people have the skills needed for these better paid jobs of the future that I have spoken about earlier.

Helping people with substance misuse issues turn their lives around

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Tackling drug and alcohol misuse and helping people affected by it to get their lives back on track is a top priority for the Staffordshire Strategic Partnership.

I saw this in action for myself last week at the opening of the brand new Recovery House and Langan’s tea rooms in Cannock.  The house helps people access short term accommodation and support, whilst the Tea rooms give clients volunteering and employment opportunities and the chance to learn new skills, make friends and meet with members of the public.

We were joined by Secretary of State for Work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith who is a big supporter of the approach and he cut the ribbon to officially open the new centre.

The house is being run by the Burton Addiction Centre, recognised as one of the best residential rehabilitation services in the country.  Working closely with partners, our Public health team continue to invest in alcohol and drug services across Staffordshire and the house is a great example of an innovative approach helping to reduce the number of alcohol related hospital admissions.  We estimate that around 400 people will benefit from the project, which will also actively engage families in the recovery process to give those dealing with addictions the best chance to recover and maintain their recovery.

The county council is responsible for many different services and areas of people’s lives.  Managing much of the county’s green spaces, country parks and picnic areas is one of these crucial roles that the council plays.

The reason we live in a shire rural county is our countryside and it is this that makes Staffordshire such a wonderful place to live, work and visit.  Working closely with local organisations and volunteers, we want to ensure that these spaces are looked after for people’s pleasure and are protected so that future generations have the same enjoyment.

Visitor numbers to many of our sites have increased hugely in recent years, which is great news but more usage pushes up the costs of maintaining and protecting some of the more sensitive areas.  We need to explore new ways of maintaining and protecting the green spaces that people love so much.  We are already talking to our partners including the Forestry Commission, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, parish councils and users’ groups to help us find the best ways to protect the estate.  Our options include keeping management with the county council, partnerships with organisations from the public, voluntary and private sectors or the carefully managed development of some sites which have limited public access and use.

If approved by Cabinet later in the month, we would start 12 weeks of consultation in November. This is not about transferring ownership, but finding ways of managing the estate better. I do hope people will take part in the discussions so together we can find the best way of preserving and protecting our much loved countryside estate for future generations to enjoy.

Celebrating Older People’s Day and our first Ageing Well summit

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Doing the right thing is supporting people to live healthier, more active and independent lives for as long as possible and was top of the agenda this week at our first Ageing Well summit.

With a growing ageing population in the county, it was a good time to pull together our partners to look at what action needs to be taken to make sure more people enjoy a healthier old age.

It’s great news that we are living longer and older people make an enormous contribution to society.  There are lots of factors which help keep people well and active including good housing, employment, and healthier lifestyles and we need to work together to get this right.  People can find out more about the findings and recommendations in the public health report.

This Thursday was also Older People’s Day and as part of the celebrations we took to the streets with a video camera to ask people exactly what age they consider to be “old”.  We got some interesting comments and results back, mainly depending on the ages of the people questioned. It cheered me up at my age!

People used to see 60 as perhaps old, but today this couldn’t be further from the truth and together we want to support people to get the most from their later years.  You can watch the video and the results might surprise you.

The county council covers a wide range of responsibilities, so from people to transport now – we all know good transport links to the county are good for both residents and for business so news of a £1.8 billion government investment to be spent on road improvements in the region is welcomed.

A new link road connecting the M54, M6 and the M6 Toll will be built. A bigger M6 Junction 10 and a new Smart Motorway between M6 junctions 13 and 15 will also be part of the road improvement scheme.  Plans also include replacing roundabouts on the A50 Uttoxeter and improvements will be made to the A38 Derby junctions.

The schemes will be a huge boost for Staffordshire, making us a better connected county than ever before.  Not only will the investment help boost connectivity, but will ease congestion, cut journey times and improve safety on some of our busiest roads.  Across the West Midlands, Highways England will also spend around £600m on the maintenance of its motorways and trunk roads which is also welcome news.