Archive for October, 2016

Seizing every opportunity from Brexit to get the best deal for Staffordshire

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Brexit is the hot political topic right now and how to shape a strong Staffordshire after the UK leaves the EU was the focus of our Staffordshire Strategic Partnership summit earlier this week.

Along with district and city councils, business leaders, police, fire, health, education and housing partners, we discussed our priorities to make sure we seize every opportunity to get the best deal for Staffordshire, our residents and our businesses post Brexit.

This was an ideal opportunity for us in many ways to start afresh, look again and refocus on what our strategic priorities are to grow the economy, invest in infrastructure, deliver transport programmes, grow exports, make what is an dearer import and expand both the high and lower skills agenda and how we can deliver these priorities away from many of the restrictions which also came hand in hand with membership of the EU.

The Government has made it clear that it wants to involve local leaders and this important event was the opportunity for leaders across our public and private sector to share their knowledge and expertise and help influence the direction the country will be moving in.

Making better use of our property, land and buildings is something we’re keen to do and last year we launched a new initiative that would help achieve this while benefiting taxpayers. Well, we’re only one year in and through our public and private sector property partnership we have already received over £12m, obtained planning permission for nearly 700 homes and embarked on plans to save taxpayers millions of pounds by centralising public services in one venue in Newcastle.

Our Penda Property Partnership is a joint venture between the county council, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, and the Kier Group. And, working together in partnership, the additional resources and expertise have undoubtedly led to more effective delivery, bringing us results much sooner.

We’ve already begun work on the Civic Hub in Newcastle and sold land for much-needed housing. The programme will now be moving staff from old, expensive-to-run offices such as the Wedgwood building in Stafford to the modern offices in the adjoining Staffordshire Place to save money, as well as using disused and surplus sites across the county for housing or industrial developments.

It’s all about unlocking the value in our property and reinvesting that money in Staffordshire’s future by revitalising and marketing sites to support new jobs, homes, healthcare and wider investment.

Way forward for integrated health and social care services in Staffordshire

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Good integrated health and social care services are essential if people are to be able to remain in their own homes and keep their independence. 

Over the past few months we’ve been working closely with the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust (SSOTP) to help ensure that people get the best health and social care possible.  I’m please to say that as well as reviewing our existing arrangements with the trust, we have also agreed a new plan up to 2020. 

As part of the new arrangements, SSOTP will assess and manage day-to-day care, reablement and occupational therapy for residents while the county council will take on the responsibility for buying long term care packages and management of the long-term care budget. Budget responsibilities for people incapable of managing their own finances due to a physical or mental health incapacity will also be transferred to the council in due course. 

As I have said before, the support and care of a growing ageing population is both a key priority and pressure not just for the county, but for the whole country.  We want to promote independence here in Staffordshire so that more people can look after themselves and find support in their local communities. And, wherever possible we would like people to be able to be cared for in their homes rather than hospitals. An integrated health and social care service will help us achieve this. 

Now on to some exciting property news.  A pioneering scheme designed to improve public services and save money for taxpayers is set to expand thanks to Government backing. 

The Government Property Unit has committed £256,000 to the ‘One Public Estate’ project in Staffordshire, which together with the county council’s existing Penda Property Partnership will accelerate property plans and allow our public sector organisations to explore how best to bring services together. 

In short, this allows the county’s public sector organisations to rationalise land and buildings to deliver more integrated services. A great example of this is the public sector hub in Newcastle which will bring together local public services under one roof.  Schemes just like this will reduce running costs, generate revenue from property sales and stimulate economic growth. 

The funding will give us more capacity to work with not only district and borough councils, but also other public sector organisations like the Police, Fire Service and health to investigate how we can share buildings and save costs. By working together we can often achieve far greater savings and benefits than by working alone and now the Government is thinking along the same lines.  It’s a pretty exciting piece of work that ultimately means Staffordshire people will be able to access lots of different services more easily, in the one place.

Tourism’s booming in Staffordshire

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

At a real risk of repeating myself,  I’m always reminding people what a great place Staffordshire is to live and work in and to visit.

Well, the proof is in the pudding, and this week we’ve had the pudding. Our latest tourism figures show we’ve had our busiest year yet. In 2015 over 24 million people, from home and abroad, enjoyed day or overnight trips to the county, generating over £1.7 billion in both direct and indirect spend for our local economy. Alongside this, the tourism sector also supports almost 30,000 jobs in the county.

It’s fair to say, the county has something for everyone, from world-class theme parks to acres of magnificent countryside, and everything in between.  We are home to the National Memorial Arboretum, now without doubt a world-class centre for remembrance following this month’s opening of the new £16m visitors centre and Hero’s Square.  Other national attractions include the F.A. National Football Centre at St George’s Park, the National Brewery Centre in Burton, the Peak District National Park and the National Forest.

Our local tourism businesses continue to do a great job attracting more and more visitors to the county and you can see what Staffordshire has to offer at www.enjoystaffordshire.com.

And further good news for our tourism industry, Staffordshire has also landed £500,000 of European Union development money to help boost the sector.  The money will be used by Staffordshire County Council to promote an increase in the number of tourism businesses in the area and particularly the number of bedspaces for visitors.

It’s fair to say that the number of hotel and B&B beds and campsite spaces we have available is well below the national average. If we could encourage an increase in both the number of beds and the range of accommodation available, we would definitely boost the number of overnight stays, generate more for the sector and create even more jobs.

Business support will include tourism experts leading workshops and also offering one-to-one advice for new and existing businesses. Advice covers best practise for small businesses, how to use social media to full effect and how to make the most of specialist tourism organisations such as Enjoy Staffordshire.  It’s a three-year project, submitted by the Destination Staffordshire Partnership, and we hope it will help more than 100 existing small and medium sized businesses. It should also help support the creation of other tourism companies too, which in turn will boost our already booming tourism industry.

Helping people make good lifestyle choices

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Stoptober, which has just kicked off this month, is the national campaign to help people quit smoking and an initiative we’ve been supporting since it launched in 2012.

This probably won’t be news to most people but half of all smokers die from smoking-related illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer. And, if you’ve ever tried to give up or know someone who has you will know how difficult it can be.

But help is at hand.  Through the Stoptober campaign we’ve made some great progress here in Staffordshire in helping people quit.  Since the campaign launched four years ago, the smoking rate in Staffordshire has fallen by 3% and last year over 3000 people signed up to the campaign.

Research shows that people who can give up smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit for good. And giving up later in life still has health benefits, such as improved circulation and reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer. Finally, quitting is good for your friends and family too who don’t have to breathe in the smoke and leaves more money in your pocket, saving the average smoker over £150 a month.

If this has left you thinking, and you are serious about quitting smoking or making other lifestyle changes then this is a great time to do so. You can find out what services are available in your local area by calling 0300 111 8006.

This week we also welcomed the news that a minor injuries unit for under 16’s at the County Hospital in Stafford will open on 10 October.  This follows the temporary suspension of Children’s A & E services at the hospital following advice from senior medical staff that the service was clinically unsafe to run due to staffing issues.

While we understand that the A & E facilities for children can’t reopen unless it is completely safe to do so, I am sure parents will welcome the news of the new unit and that they won’t have to travel further afield if their child needs treatment for a minor injury.

The hospital trust faced scrutiny by members of Staffordshire County Council’s Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee in September and a full review of Children’s Emergency Services at County Hospital is due to be completed in January.