Archive for September, 2016

Safeguarding Doxey Marshes

Friday, September 30th, 2016

New developments can pose a threat to wildlife and earlier this year the council was commended for its work to preserve the wildlife on the Redhill Business Park, where our sustainable newt tunnels led to an even greater number of species living in the area. And now as part of the Stafford Western Access Road project, which I spoke about last week, we will be making even more environmental improvements to both protect and improve the environment for local wildlife.

By lowering an area of land at Doxey Marshes nature reserve we will create ideal wet-grassland nesting conditions for migrating birds. Meanwhile the River Sow will be taken out of its artificial channel by the railway and restored to a more natural riverbed with shallower slopes to help prevent flooding. As well as bringing great economic benefits to the county town, I’m proud there will be environmental improvements as part of the work too.  And, we’ve been working closely with Staffordshire Wildlife, Natural England  and the Environment Agency to make sure we get it right.

This new school year may have only just started but parents with children going to primary or secondary school next September 2017 need to think ahead about choosing a school for their child.

It pays to do your homework when choosing a school, and the county council is very pleased to unveil its new school search tool.  By entering a postcode, parents can now see and compare schools easily, including their Ofsted rating, average GCSE results, pupil to teacher ratio, if it is a catchment area school – even what percentage of pupils went on to further education and apprenticeships.

It’s easy to use and a straight-forward way to help parents make the right choice for their child’s school. You can find the tool here on the Staffordshire County Council website. Parents can also find out how they can help their children on their continuing school journey by visiting www.staffordshire.gov.uk/brightfuture.

And now turning to some personal news, I am pleased to announce I have been elected as one of three vice chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN). The CCN provides a national voice for all the country’s 27 county council’s and 10 county unitary councils. This appointment gives us the opportunity to promote and strengthen the key role county authorities like Staffordshire have in shaping economic growth, health and care, planning, education and local government funding.

The new role will see Staffordshire, through a national platform, support its fellow rural counties influence and deliver the priorities for people living in rural shire areas.  Despite the tough times, in Staffordshire we have continued to invest in and support economic growth to help demonstrate that shire counties are truly the best places to live and work.

Opportunity for groups to run the remaining four community libraries

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

We’re now inviting organisations to come forward and take over the running of Cheslyn Hay, Great Wyrley, Loggerheads and Talke libraries. We are keen to see our smaller libraries in the hands of the communities they serve, so decisions can be taken at a local level to make them more responsive, more able to provide what’s needed locally. While groups will take care of the day to day management and running of their library, the council will still take care of maintenance and utility bills. Plus groups will have access to library services, IT systems and their own dedicated member of the library service to advise and support them.

We started this process in February 2015 with the first two rounds of applications proving very successful and are confident we will get groups to come forward. Organisations have until 20 January 2017 to apply and there’s further details at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/communitylibraries

Now to another important area of work for us. With children back at school, or teenagers off to university, we know that there will be parents out there looking to take on a new challenge or adventure. Our Fostering Service is now asking people if fostering could be for them and to get in touch.

We are always looking for foster families to come forward and provide a loving home for our looked after children and over the next three years we need to recruit around 150 more families.  As often is the case, there is a particular need for carers for teenagers and sibling groups so again, if you think you could help out then please get in touch.

Most people can foster. You simply need to care about children, have good communication skills, have a spare room and be ready for that challenge.  When I meet many of our foster carers they always say what a rewarding thing it is to do and comment on the range of support they get from our staff too.

Fostering is making a real difference to the lives of hundreds of local children in Staffordshire every day, so if it’s for you, then please get in touch with the service at www.care4child.org.

Growing optimism amongst Staffordshire businesses

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

We’ve had some more good news this month with the latest unemployment claimant count for the county now at 1%, proving that there is great optimism amongst Staffordshire’s businesses about future growth, profitability and taking on new staff. Once again, our figures are well below the national average at, 1.7%, and regional average, at 2.3%, which is very encouraging news.

In the first quarter Staffordshire Economic Survey which was published recently, 28 per cent of businesses questioned had seen an increase in the number of employees in the previous three months, while 28 per cent thought there would be an increase in the number of staff over the next three months. Twenty-seven per cent said investment in training had increased over that period. Over the next 12 months, 65 per cent of businesses surveyed expected turnover to improve in that time, with 64 per cent expecting profitability to improve.

Last week’s announcement that Spanish automotive parts supplier Gestamp had chosen to build a £70million new facility in Staffordshire was a further vote of confidence in the local economy and its workforce. Gestamp employs 800 people at its current base in Cannock. The move to nearby Four Ashes in South Staffordshire will safeguard jobs and enable the company to expand further.  Meanwhile we are seeing other development sites progressing well which will lead to further job creation in the county. More recently, the new General Electric development at Redhill in Stafford and the company’s commitment to fund its second facility on site is also a prime example that Staffordshire is a great location for business.

Next week, I’ll be meeting with cabinet colleagues to move the Stafford Western Access Route project another step forward. We want to see the scheme delivered as soon as possible to help secure the future prosperity of the county town. We will be agreeing the additional funding required and the compulsory purchase powers, meaning land for the development can be bought without delay.

This new road is an essential part of Stafford’s ambitious growth plans and will enable thousands of new homes to be built, provide for new employment land to create thousands of jobs and relieve traffic congestion in the town centre. The route will also unlock millions of pounds worth of future investment as well as improving access to increased rail services through Stafford and its connection to HS2 further down the line.