Archive for January, 2016

Staffordshire Day

Friday, January 29th, 2016

May Day was traditionally a celebration of spring and this year is going to have a different flavour as we also celebrate our first ever Staffordshire Day on Sunday May 1, and everyone should join in this traditional English celebration with a Staffordshire twist.

Staffordshire Day is our first ever celebration of all things great about the county and will see a host of special events and community activities taking place across the county. 1 May was the date voted by the public last year and marks the creation of Staffordshire’s world-famous Wedgwood pottery company in 1759.

Lots of our tourist attractions and businesses will be offering special offers on the day. But as well as this we also want community groups and organisations to join in the celebrations and organise their own community activities.  To help with this, groups can apply for a grant of up to £1,000 from the Community Arts Fund for arts based activities to celebrate Staffordshire Day.  People can find out more at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/communityartsfund

2016 is also a particularly special year for the county and is the year we celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the first recorded mention of Staffordshire in the old Anglo Saxon Chronicle. This is one of the most famous manuscripts in English History, second only to the Domesday Survey and perhaps after last year the Magna Carta.  To celebrate the anniversary, our Archives and Heritage Service will be holding a special Staffordshire History Day on Saturday 7 May.

You can find out more about Staffordshire Day, what’s planned and how to get involved at www.enjoystaffordshire.com/staffsday

Unemployment figures hit a record low for the county

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Yet again, more positive news for the county with the number of job seekers’ allowance claimants in December at just 0.7 per cent of the population. This is the lowest number on record and comes at a time when our first growth Deal project, Liberty Park in Lichfield is officially opened. The new £4m project would see new industrial units, providing over 1,000 additional jobs in the area.

At the same time, in the north of the county, at Meaford, near Stone, work to provide the infrastructure for a new business park is also on track to be finished in May. Again, funded through the government’s Growth Deal the business park could create up to 2,200 jobs when completed. In Stafford, this month too, we have also seen the start of work on the new Western Access road which will help reduce congestion in the town and support future growth.

It’s a very exciting time for our county of Staffordshire with so many developments underway, bringing with them a real mix of quality jobs and helping to secure a brighter future for the county.

Gritting teams in action to help keep the county on the move

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

It has been a busy and challenging time for our gritting teams who have been out in force to help keep the county on the move over the last week.  We have seen freezing temperatures with ice and snow but we have been well prepared, with 20,000 tonnes of grit immediately available for more than 40 gritters.  We’ll always treat our main roads if necessary and in prolonged periods of icy weather extend to other routes. We’re also grateful to our team of community Ice Busters, who are on standby to clear local footpaths.  You can find out more about our winter preparation, where the teams grit and how they decide to grit at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/winter

Since November we have been asking for people’s views on the best ways to manage our countryside, country parks, picnic areas and green spaces.  Now, with less than a week to go I would like to remind people, if they haven’t already done so, to have their say.

As I have said before, the estate will remain safe in our hands, but the question is how best to manage them for everyone’s benefit and enjoyment in an affordable manner.  We’ve already had over 270 responses on the different options and we will be looking at these once the consultation is over.  If you haven’t had your say yet you can still do so before 24 January at: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/countrysidereview

Following the success of the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and the UK Corporate Games, both last year, we’re now looking to increase our sports offer.  With sports tourism one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel and leisure industries, it’s something we want to capitalise on.  Not only are we located in the heart of the county and easily accessible by road, train or air we have some of the country’s most stunning locations and natural environments to host such events.  We’re keen to build on last year’s successes – bringing even more visitors and spending into the county while leaving a legacy of improved fitness and healthy lifestyles for Staffordshire people.  I’ll be discussing our Sportshire options with my Cabinet colleagues at our next meeting on 20 January.

Gritting crews on stand by for colder weather

Monday, January 11th, 2016

It looks like we have another cold spell on its way with lower temperatures predicted over the coming weeks and I would like to remind drivers to take care when on the roads.  Although our team of gritters will be out when required, even when roads have been gritted people still need to slow down, drive to the conditions and allow extra time for journeys.  Following the County Council on Twitter @staffordshirecc is a good way of finding out if gritters are out and what road conditions are like.

Winter can also be a tough time for many elderly people living on their own, so please remember to keep an eye out for your older friends and neighbours, maybe popping round every now and again to make sure they are OK.  There is lots of advice and tips on staying safe and healthy and keeping warm and well during colder weather at www.staffordshirecares.info.

Good news in Cannock at the Kingswood Lakeside Business Park as plans are approved for the development of a new unit for the First Choice Group.  The company, which supplies spares for the catering sector nationwide already employs 130 people at the site.  The new Headquarters could now expand its operations in the new larger premises, enabling it to potentially double the number of employees,  providing a welcome boost to the local job market.

Kingswood Lakeside is now one of the county’s leading business sites and home to national leaders like environmental firm Veolia and APC Overnight – the UK’s largest delivery company.  This is further evidence of our success in attracting and supporting business expansion in Staffordshire and bringing with it more quality jobs.

Looking ahead to 1 May and with the county  to celebrate its first ever Staffordshire Day, I want to remind community groups about some funding that is being made available.  Staffordshire Day is our first ever celebration of all things great about the county and will see a host of special events taking place on the day.  But as well as this we also want people  to organise their own community activities and this is where our community arts funding can help.  Grants of between £100 – £1000 for arts based activities are being made available.  You can find out more at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/communityartsfund  The closing date for applications is 1 March 2016.

The date for Staffordshire Day was chosen to mark the creation of Staffordshire’s world-famous Wedgwood pottery company on 1 May 1795.  And, 2016 is also the year we celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the first recorded mention of Staffordshire in the old Anglo Saxon Chronicle.  You can read more about Staffordshire Day and how to get involved in celebrating our great county at www.enjoystaffordshire.com/trade/Staffordshire_Day_Needs_You.aspx

Achievements for 2015 and looking ahead to 2016

Monday, January 4th, 2016

As we move into 2016, it is a good time to reflect on both the achievements and highlights of the last year and some of the challenges we will face in the year ahead.

Last year, together with our partners, the county council continued to work hard to deliver what is best for the people who live and work in Staffordshire. That is better jobs, better health, better care and better lives.

On the economic front we have seen major projects supporting new jobs and growth take shape right across the county, notably the continued success story of i54 South Staffordshire, Liberty Park in Lichfield, IC5 at Keele and the Redhill Business Park in Stafford.  It is also fantastic to have ended the year with news that the number of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance in Staffordshire is at its lowest since records began more than 20 years ago.

While our role in education is changing, we still have a role to play in helping ensure students make the best choices for them with the best opportunities to access the education and skills they need to get even better jobs, matching the requirements of our businesses in Staffordshire.

Further highlights for me in 2015 included the huge success story of our first Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, the opening of our new high-tech library in Stafford and the continuing rollout of superfast broadband to a further 40,000 properties. We also welcomed a new Chief Executive in John Henderson who is helping shape and oversee the delivery of our priorities.

But the dominating theme of 2015 and one that will continue has undoubtedly been health and social care and how the public sector can all work better together to help people be well, keep well and where necessary hopefully get well as quickly as possible.

We need to do more to support people to help themselves, their families and their communities by giving people the good choices to be active, healthy and stay independent for as long as possible. Local people helping local friends, colleagues and neighbours, putting a little more back into their local community.

In 2016 we will continue to champion the cause of Staffordshire and ensure that peoples voices are heard loud and clear on major infrastructure projects such as HS2.  We will also continue to explore with partners how wider devolution could work for Staffordshire around our key priorities.

As we continue through 2016, Our focus must not be on the problem, but on the solutions, and working even more closely with our partners will lead us to better outcomes for you, our residents who we all serve.