Archive for May, 2016

Busy time for Trading Standards

Friday, May 27th, 2016

It’s been a busy time for our Trading Standards teams.  This week we saw the introduction of new laws banning the production and sale of so called ‘legal highs’ and ‘new psychoactive substances’ (known as NPSs).

These are very dangerous products containing chemical substances that produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy. But more worryingly, have been linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and in recent cases, even death.

It’s an important piece of work for our Trading Standards officers, who have already been working with retailers and the Police over the past few months. Teams have already had some success and in previous operations, a total of 11 premises in Staffordshire were found to be selling NPSs, with four of these voluntarily surrendering their products. You can find out more about NPSs at: www.staffordshirecares.info/legalhighs.

Staying with trading standards, our teams are also giving advice on the risks of buying fake goods over the bank holiday weekend trying to keep you, our Staffordshire residents safe. Bank holiday weekend and car boot sales go hand in hand. But car boot sales are also a chance for counterfeiters and criminals to offload dodgy second-hand goods and cheap knock-off brands by passing them off as a bargain. These can be faulty and hazardous, especially electrical devices that could cause fires or electrocution. Fake sunglasses can have no UVA protection and children’s toys with no quality control can have small parts which pose a choking hazard.  So, if you’re out looking for a bargain, be aware and as always, remember, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Looking ahead, this year’s County Show is on 1 and 2 June up at the County Showground. This midweek celebration is always popular with thousands of visitors and helps showcase the best of rural life in Staffordshire.  Local food and drink producers and suppliers, sheep judging, dog shows, jazz bands and motorcycle stunts are all amongst the action taking place.

I will also be there on Wednesday and Thursday, along with Cabinet colleague Mark Winnington to answer any questions people might have about living in a rural county, the rural economy and social isolation.  It’s definitely a date for the diary and I hope to see some of you there.

Major business developments on the way

Friday, May 20th, 2016

This has been a big week for the future of the county’s economy with ground-breaking plans being put into action. With Cabinet colleagues we have agreed a commitment to deliver three more major business development projects that will potentially create thousands of jobs.

The go-ahead means we can begin designing for the delivery of construction work at Keele University Science and Innovation Park and infrastructure work at Chatterley Valley near Newcastle-under-Lyme and at the former Royal Ordnance factory site in Featherstone, South Staffordshire.

This is a thrilling step forward for Staffordshire’s economy and more evidence of our wider commitment to increase the number of better paid jobs in an area with near full employment.  We are taking the initiative now to invest in our business future and create the opportunities for skills and productivity to thrive. We have already been directly involved in £250million worth of investment in the past five years and this is the kind of commitment that will put money in Staffordshire people’s pockets in the long term. I cannot wait to see these projects get under way.

In Burton, two major proposals also moved a step forward as plans for the first new secondary school in the county for 25 years received backing from planning officials.  At the same time a new primary school for the town has also been given the go ahead, meaning work can get underway within the next few months.

Burton is booming and the population is increasing, and with such growth comes extra pressure on school places.  But by taking a long-term view and working with parents, pupils, schools and planning departments we can maximise the resources we have available to us to ensure all children growing up in Burton now and in the future can get the very best start in life.

Although it still needs the final go-ahead, the new Highschool will lead to the construction of a £25million 1400 place school due to open in September 2018.  The 420-place primary school, to be built at Henhurst Ridge in Burton, will open in September 2017 for reception, year 1 and year 2 pupils.  It’s an exciting time for families in Burton.

Foster Carer’s Fortnight in Staffordshire

Monday, May 16th, 2016

I am sure people will join me in celebrating the fantastic work our foster families are doing to help give local children a second chance of a happy life.  Every day, literally hundreds of children from across Staffordshire get the chance to do normal everyday activities without fear or worry thanks to our team of foster carers.

Foster Care Fortnight which starts on 16 May is the time we celebrate the work they all do and we are setting out to show how easy it is to become a foster carer.  Reggie  is our fostering bus and he will be making his way across the county over the next few weeks. It’s a great chance for anyone thinking about fostering to talk to our team and existing foster carers to find out exactly what’s involved.

Foster carers are wonderful people who open their homes to children and young people who have had a difficult start to life. Fostering can sometimes be a real challenge but our foster carers tell us that despite the hard work the rewards are immense. You won’t be going it alone; with the right training and support from our team you’ll be well prepared. Anyone over 21 with a spare bedroom can take their first step towards changing a child’s life.

We have around 400 fostering households across the county but with the number of children needing a loving home on the increase, and existing families retiring each year, we always need more families to come forward.  We hope to recruit 60 new families over the next twelve months and there is a specific need for carers for teenagers and sibling groups. So if you think you have what it takes, then please get in touch.

For Reggie’s tour dates or to find out more about becoming a foster carer visit

www.staffordshire.gov.uk/fostering or by calling 0800 169 2061.

More sporting success for Staffordshire

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Some more great sporting news for Staffordshire with Burton Albion FC clinching their promotion to the Football League Championship this weekend. This is the club’s second successive promotion which is a great achievement and now means their home Pirelli Stadium will be hosting matches against Aston Villa and Birmingham City.  The Club have had a phenomenal climb over the past few seasons and this is a huge boost for the town and for Staffordshire. Congratulations to the Brewers chairman Ben Robinson, the players and managers and last, but certainly not least, the supporters.  We look forward to the start of the next season to cheer them on.

Anyone who has visited Cannock Chase, I’m sure will appreciate the breath taking scenery and countryside but lesser known is that it also has one of the best preserved Great War training landscapes in the country.  Well, now a new project to uncover the hidden history of the area is underway.

The ‘Chase through Time’ project will help archaeologists to find possible lost treasures beneath the vegetation, including prehistoric burial mounds, remnants of a medieval hunting forest and many missing Great War model and practise trenches, like the Messines model trench that was excavated a few years ago to much international interest.

Now, using state-of-the-art technology, we hope we will find all of this without disturbing an inch of the Chase’s landscape. LIDAR – light-detection-and-ranging – technology attached to an aircraft has been used to survey the area, using a barrage of lasers to detect the layout of the land underneath the bracken and trees. The team will then examine the images to identify areas of interest. As the project continues, old photos of the Chase will become increasingly important to help us piece together the story, so please get in touch with the team if you think you can help.

This isn’t the only project delving into Staffordshire’s history. Tithe maps of the 1840s are often the earliest detailed maps of parishes and provide a snapshot of life in the county at that time. They show houses, roads, footpaths, fields, woods, churches and the basis of the parishes and towns of Staffordshire as we know them today.  The maps will also come with records showing the names of the owner and occupier in each plot, which can be valuable knowledge to someone researching their family history.

The project to digitise the maps is being led by Friends of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archives whose volunteers have been working on the project for over seven years now.  They hope to have the maps available digitally from Record Offices and libraries very soon.

This, and the Chase through Time project, are all great steps towards preserving the county’s history and we should be very proud of our heritage.

Staffordshire Day is a resounding success

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

It looked like we captured that local pride in Staffordshire on Sunday, when we held our first ever official Staffordshire Day with dozens of events taking place across the county. The day was a huge success and saw thousands of people turn out to share their pride and show what great things the county has to offer.

It was great to see so many of our top tourism attractions along with local communities get involved, finding their own exciting way to mark the day.  Stone-based Lymestone Brewery even brewed a special Staffordshire Day ale for the celebrations.

To capture a flavour amongst the many events were a death-defying tightrope walk across Rudyard Lake as part of the ‘A day at the lake’ arts event. The Alton Towers Resort gave half-price entry to everyone who showed a photo of them eating an oatcake.  And, at World of Wedgwood in Barlaston people celebrated the best of local produce with their ‘Staffordshire Day food festival’.

It really was a wonderful day, with more events at Norbury Canal Festival, the National Brewery Centre, National Memorial Arboretum, Cannock Museum and Lichfield Cathedral. I would like to thank everyone who turned out to join in the celebrations including lots of smaller community groups who put on their own events.  We’ll now be looking ahead to next year’s Staffordshire Day and how we can make it even more special.