Archive for November, 2016

Receiving my OBE

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016
It was humbling to have my family see me receive my OBE.

It was humbling to have my family see me receive my OBE.

On Friday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for the investiture of my OBE which I was awarded back in June for services to local government in Staffordshire. It was a wonderful day and I was proud to be one of many Staffordshire people recognised by Her Majesty. Receiving the award with my family present was an incredibly humbling experience and one I won’t forget.

When people step forward to help their fellow neighbours, or try and improve life for their community, there’s no thought or expectation of an honour like this. Many people give up their time and energy to help make Staffordshire a better place every day and again it’s those I’d like to congratulate and thank.

I also joined pupils, teachers and governors on Tuesday at the new £7m Ryecroft CE Middle School and Dove First CE (VC) School in Rocester for their official opening. Since the beginning of the school year, staff and pupils at both schools have settled well into their new building, and have been taking full advantage of the wonderful facilities on offer.

It’s quite a unique project with the new building allowing both schools to retain their individual identities but share expertise, costs and resources. And, when the time comes for pupils to move up from school to the other, they can do this seamlessly. A new pavement along Ashbourne Road, and a brand new Puffin Crossing and associated road markings, were also installed in time for the school start to help keep everyone safe.

Staffordshire welcomes Prince Harry for Armistice Day

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

harry-philips-blogStaffordshire welcomed a royal visitor this week as Prince Harry visited the National Memorial Arboretum for our Armistice Day services on Friday. The Prince led a moving tribute to all the lives lost in war with a wreath-laying ceremony and a reading of Robert Brooke’s poem The Soldier by the Armed Forces memorial. It was a huge honour to be present at the ceremonies on behalf of the county. It was a beautiful service and the grounds were made all the more spectacular by the newly opened visitor’s centre. A royal presence highlights again what a national focus for commemoration Staffordshire has become through the Arboretum and we are very proud to have it in the county.

On Remembrance Sunday I also attended my local village service at the War Memorial in St Michael’s Lychgate, Rocester which I have done for the last 30 years.  It still fills me with pride when fellow villagers gather with our neighbours to pay our respects to those who died during conflict and it was encouraging to see even more and more young people attending to pay their respects.

Empowering our young people to become aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders is something we all want to see and something we’ll all benefit from. Not only is it vital we teach the next generation the business acumen they need to succeed, but we’ll also be securing the future growth and success of the county.

Our Young Enterprise project is doing just that. This engaging scheme reaches out to schools and challenges pupils to set up and run a business over the school year.  These young entrepreneurs of today will be the business leaders of tomorrow, so it’s vital that they get the insight to how business works and to even have a go at running their own enterprise themselves when they are so young.

The young people make all the decisions, create their company, design and sell their products and manage the finances, learning about business every step of the way. 20 high schools from across the county and city have already taken part in the scheme, with over 3,500 children joining in. I am sure this project has fired up these teenager’s money-making spirits and shown them the rewards and excitement of running their own businesses. The teenagers will be taking part in two ‘Dragons Den’ type events to pitch their business ideas at the end of the month, so I’ll report back on how they get on.

Winter is here but the gritters are ready

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
Brian Edwards and Philip Atkins

Brian Edwards MBE and myself have pledged to support 3,500 new jobs and 660 new start-up businesses.

Winter has definitely arrived. With temperatures falling below zero across many parts of the county this week, our army of gritters saw their first real piece of action.

Gritters have been out most nights treating the main routes to help keep the county on the move. On routine winter days and nights crews will be focusing on the major routes and extending to the wider network in prolonged ice and snow conditions.

We’re well prepared for whatever winter decides to throw at us, with a fleet of more than 40 gritters and around 20,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled. But drivers can also play their part too. Regardless of whether a road has been gritted, motorists need to slow down, take extra care and allow more time for their journeys, as the most important thing is that we all get through winter safely.

And don’t forget our Ice Busters initiative, where people can support their Parish Councils and resident associations by providing grit and treating footpaths. As the cold sets in too, please remember to look out for your elderly or more vulnerable neighbours – it’s as simple as knocking on their door to see if they are okay, safe and warm. You can read more about how we prepare for winter on the council’s Winter Travel page.

Great news for people in the South of the county this week with the signing of a deal to support the creation of 3,500 jobs and 660 start-up businesses over the next four years. This is the second South Staffordshire District Deal which sets out a four-year plan which will also see the creation of a skills federation to enable young people to meet the needs of local employers and work clubs set up to support people back into employment. The deal will also build on successes achieved in the district at i54 South Staffordshire – now home to leading global businesses with a workforce of over 3,000 people.

The first District Deal, launched in 2013, has already laid the foundations for closer working, shared resources and improving employment skills in the district.  Our two councils already work closely together and are bringing in major investors and creating the right environment for businesses of all sizes. This all creates increased opportunities for people, resulting in more prosperous and healthier communities.

And sticking with business, this terrific piece of news needs celebrating. Monday saw the launch of our first ever Staffordshire Business Festival. This two-week celebration of our ongoing economic successes will feature over 60 events across the county promoting some of our most successful schemes and projects along with sessions about inward investment, exporting, finance, digital workshops and apprenticeship advice.  Businesses and organisations will also get the opportunity to share expertise and good practice and the chance to network, meet new contacts, customers and suppliers.

Having attended some of the events myself it’s great to see the enthusiasm and energy amongst our business community. It’s also hugely encouraging to see how our projects like superfast broadband and the creation of our business parks are helping attract even more businesses, big and small to the county.  We always put promoting and supporting Staffordshire’s businesses as a top priority and will continue to support growth and attract investment in our county.

As I have said before, Staffordshire is the right place to do business and you can find out why and more about the festival at the Staffordshire Business Festival website. People can also sign up for our business support newsletter where they will receive the latest on opportunities available to them. Visit the Customer Alert page on the county council’s website.

Helping children from Calais and HS2 Hub for Stafford

Friday, November 4th, 2016

This month’s big headline was the arrival of unaccompanied asylum seeking children from Calais to Britain and the closure of the Jungle camp.

Here in Staffordshire we have a proud record of helping those most in need and, working closely with the regional migration team and other West Midlands Authorities, we have extended our offer of help to find placements for some of these children under the Dublin and Dubs 3 Agreements arriving from the Calais camps.  This is in addition to the 50 Syrians we are helping from the refugee camps on the Syrian border earlier this year and 84 young unaccompanied asylum seekers who have arrived in lorries.

While it’s right that we offer immediate support to these vulnerable young people, more needs to be done to discourage people from setting off on the perilous journey across the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea in the first place.

Now to some transport news.  You will already know HS2 is the major new railway that is planned to eventually link London and the north of the country, and will run through 45 miles of Staffordshire and  the council continues to express concerns on the impact of HS2 on Staffordshire.

This week we had the announcement from HS2 Ltd that Stafford will be a hub on the route, opening up opportunities for huge economic benefits for the town and surrounding area.

The hub will see a link between the HS2 line and the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre, which will allow HS2 classic compatible Javelin trains to serve Stafford and the surrounding area. This means hundreds of thousands of people will be able to share in both the swifter journey to London and the economic opportunities that come with it. Work on the project is due to start in 2017 and the finished route would make the journey from Stafford to the capital only 53 minutes, knocking nearly a third off the existing journey time.

While the new hub and the additional economic benefits for the area are great news for Stafford and surrounding towns, our focus still remains getting meaningful compensations for residents affected by the project. Our job, as the county council, is and always will be to continue to ensure our residents’ voices are heard, fight for proper compensation for those affected, make sure that the impact on our environment is minimal and that Staffordshire captures any economic benefits.

In the first phase we succeeded in getting 8km of the route lowered in Lichfield, significantly reducing the impact locally which proves it’s really important that people have their say. As the project progresses too, we will continue to work with HS2 Limited, the Department for Transport and our local communities, to mitigate the impact during construction and operation and get the best result we can for Staffordshire people.