Archive for November, 2015

Gritting crews in action for the first time

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Liberty Park Lichfield is one of our exciting projects being developed along with Liberty Property Trust and its partner Stoford Developments.  The new £4m project, is due for completion at the end of the month and will be the first of the Government’s Growth Deal funded schemes in the area.

Work on site has involved the construction of a new railway bridge over the West Coast Mainline, and once complete will include new industrial and warehousing units, again attracting over 1,000 jobs to the county.  Getting the infrastructure in place has been complex but now means the developer can get on with the job of attracting interest from potential occupiers which is great news for the area.

This weekend we all got a real taste of winter with the temperatures dropping to below zero in most parts of the county and with this, we saw our gritting crews in action for the first time.  Our crews worked much of the nights to keep roads clear and moving, treating our A and B roads as necessary.

Our 40 plus gritters work out of five depots located across the county with nine weather stations giving decision makers the information they need.  And, with 20k tonnes of salt stock piled we’re pretty well prepared for what mother nature has planned for us over the next few months.

On routine winter days and nights, crews will focus on the major routes, extending to the wider network in prolonged ice and snow conditions. Even when roads are gritted though, I would always advise people to slow down, drive with extra care and always allow extra time for their journey.  People can find out more about where our teams grit and how they decide at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/winter

Staying with winter for a moment longer, we have also been encouraging as many people as possible to take up the flu vaccination, especially those who are eligible for a free one.  Flu can be a particularly nasty illness, and for children, the elderly and those with existing health needs, it can be even more severe.  This is why we are encouraging all of those eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up the offer and ensure they stay healthy throughout the winter months.  You can find out more about it and other tips for keeping well at www.staffordshirecares.info

County continues with a balanced economy and increasing opportunities

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Near full employment with the latest Jobseekers Allowance claimant figure now continuing at 0.8 per cent, (an all-time low) is further evidence that we have an economy that is balanced with increasing new opportunities.

Amongst the progress are developments at the new business innovation centre at Keele University Science and Innovation Park which could help create 130 jobs. This £7million centre is aimed at high growth businesses, providing high quality office and workshop accommodation.

In the south of the county, development continues to gather pace at Cannock Chase district’s flagship Kingswood Lakeside business park and likewise at Redhill in Stafford which I’ve spoken about recently. At i54 South Staffordshire we have also just confirmed sale of three more plots. This is all part of our vision and ongoing drive to bring innovative business and new better paid jobs to the people of Staffordshire.

In addition to growing the economy and creating jobs, helping to develop the voluntary sector also remains one of our priorities. Helping us achieve this is VAST, and last week I joined staff to welcome the Duke of Kent for the opening of their new Hub in Stafford.

VAST provide practical support services to voluntary and community groups on a wide range of subjects including bidding for funding, recruiting volunteers, staff training and how to tender for contracts. Having VAST at the heart of the voluntary sector is great news for our local communities and has given them an excellent base from which to deliver their services. Alternative other help and advice is also available at www.justact.org.uk

The voluntary and community sector play an important role in helping improve the lives of people in Staffordshire and it’s vital that these initiatives and organisations are supported.

From the voluntary hub now to the new Carers Hubs, Giving carers of all ages and circumstances access to local support services. The new Carers Hubs, one in Hanley and one in Stafford will provide information and advice, support groups, activities, training and will arrange referrals to other organisations when specialist help is needed.

We know that carers play a vital role in our society, and every day thousands of people in Staffordshire provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner. It’s important to remember that carers will need support themselves at some point too so having the Hubs will give them somewhere to turn to for help and advice when they need it.

Parents with children under five looking for information on the move might be interested to hear about the latest addition to the My Staffs App. The new tile provides information on family planning, pregnancy, baby, toddler and pre-school parenting, along with a looking after you section.

One in three people that access our services online now do so from a mobile device and this is expected to increase over the next few years. And with people leading increasingly busier lives and getting jobs done on the move, it is vital that we make it as easy and efficient as possible for them to do so. The ‘My Staffs App’ is free and can be downloaded from the Apple App store and Google Play Stores.

More good news for the county town

Monday, November 9th, 2015

More good news for Stafford this time round with plans being approved for the new Stafford Western Access Route and another milestone achieved at the new Redhill Industrial Park.

Plans for the new Stafford Western Access Route which will help cut congestion and support new homes and growth in the town got the Green light from planners earlier in the month.  Stafford has seen significant development over the last few years which is helping to secure the town’s future prosperity and keeping it attractive to potential investors.  But, we all know how congested the town centre can be at certain times and with more development planned, it’s vital that we act now.

The project is being backed by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Local Enterprise Partnership and is being funded through the Government’s Growth Deal.  The new road will help ease congestion on the Newport Road east of Kingsway, Station Road, Chell Road, Gaol Square and the A34 Foregate Street south of the scheme.  Work on the first section could start as early as summer or autumn 2016 and I will keep readers updated on progress.

Keeping with Stafford, Trebor Developments, working with US firm Rockspring also had its plans for a new industrial development on the Redhill site approved with construction able to start in the new year.  The fact that the site is almost fully occupied, and with just two plots left, is great news for Staffordshire.  This brings added confidence to potential investors and is further evidence that companies are wanting to invest and do their business here in Staffordshire.

How Casserole Club is helping tackle loneliness and isolation amongst older people this winter

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

With winter just around the corner and the many extra pressures it puts on older people, it’s the time of year when we need to rally together and all do our bit to help our neighbours as a little thought can go a long way.

Older people make an enormous contribution to society and the economy but winter can be a particularly harsh time for them.  Colder weather brings additional problems and so it’s important to encourage older people to keep warm at home and get their free flu jab to avoid ill health.

We continue to work hard with our partners in health and the voluntary sector. Plans are already in place to promote the national Winter Well/Warm Campaign in order to spread the message about the importance of keeping healthy and well over the next few months.  There’s a wealth of useful advice and tips for people on our Staffordshire Cares website at www.staffordshirecares.info

Only last month we held our first Aging Well Summit which saw the coming together of a range of different organisations to discuss ways in which we can work together to help people to age well.

Our work to create dementia friendly communities across Staffordshire will also help raise awareness of dementia across local businesses and the general public, allowing people to better access their communities.

Research by Age UK already shows us that more than half of those over 80 years of age are lonely and an increasing 1.3 million people aged over 65 suffer from malnutrition, both of which are preventable.  A unique scheme that is helping us to tackle this while building community spirit is Casserole Club.  It’s a very simple project that helps people to share extra portions of their home-cooked food with other people in their area, like older adults who find it difficult to cook their own meals.

Cooks simply prepare a meal in their own home, popping a portion in a container and dropping it round later that day to an older neighbour they have been matched with.  Over 350 people have already registered their interest to cook, so if you think you can help or know of a diner who would benefit from a hot meal and chat then please join atwww.casseroleclub.com

It is definitely great news that we are living longer and is something we should all celebrate. Doing the right thing is supporting people to live healthier, more active and independent lives for as long as possible.

Remember we can all help, so please look out for your elderly relatives and neighbours this winter.