Archive for January, 2017

Welcoming Chancellor to Redhill Business Park

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

On Monday we welcomed Chancellor Philip Hammond to the county for a visit of the new GE facilities at the county council-developed Redhill Business Park in Stafford.

The visit followed the Prime Minister’s launch of the UK’s Industrial Strategy which will look at ways the government can provide support to businesses, agreeing trade deals and encouraging innovation and skills development.

GE, who are Stafford’s biggest employer, are expanding their operations on the site as global HQ for High Voltage Direct Transmission which is great news for the area and a clear demonstration of Staffordshire’s position as a key contributor to the emerging strategy. We have already made great progress in recent years in what the Government has set out as its ten priorities – from upgrading infrastructure to developing research, innovation and skills.

Our investment in Redhill, the New Keele Deal and the advanced manufacturing and engineering skills hub which I have spoken about many times before are all great examples of this. By planning ahead, we have been able to provide the sites and contribute to the development of a skilled workforce for international companies such as GE. This in turn provides some great local opportunities for higher skilled, better paid jobs and at the same time enable the generation of affordable energy and cleaner growth.

Securing the future of the iconic Shire Hall

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Shire Hall Gallery GDMost towns and cities have their own iconic buildings loved by their residents, and for the people of Stafford and the county, it’s the town’s Shire Hall.

People who know the building will know what a wonderful structure it is, with the main hall leading out to the market square, and a mix of courtrooms and back offices.  There has been quite a lot of talk in recent months and I would like to reassure readers that the county council is committed to protecting and preserving the building for the future.

It’s in all our interests to have a busy, vibrant Shire Hall which contributes to the town centre and that’s what we want to see.  It’s important we find the best ways of keeping the building well-used, relevant to the community and the town, while allowing it to generate an income to sustain its future.

Because the Shire Hall was originally designed as a courthouse and is a Grade 2 listed building, there are practical and legal restrictions on what can be done.  But there are lots of possibilities we could consider, including office accommodation, pop-up shops, functions, wedding fairs, and markets.  I’m meeting with Cabinet colleagues in the spring and I’m confident that we will find a suitable use which will not only preserve and protect this wonderful building but will keep it busy and successful for present and future residents to enjoy.

Looking forward to our second Staffordshire Day

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

HK0C6862We all remember what a huge success our first ever Staffordshire Day was last year, well we’re now planning for this year’s which we hope will be even bigger and better.

Last year’s event organised by Enjoy Staffordshire featured more than 40 events around the county with people turning out in their thousands to enjoy the day.  As well as the official events, it was also great to see communities put together their own celebrations to help show the world why they should visit Staffordshire.

And already this year, numerous free events have already been organised for our second Staffordshire Day including a vintage market at the National Memorial Arboretum, the Lymelight Music Festival in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the Norbury Canal Festival, near Stafford, with live music, market and beer festival.  This year I want even more people to get involved and have a great day so get the date – Monday 1st May – in your diary and stay posted for some wonderful events.

How Staffordshire helped shape Tolkien’s Middle-earth

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Tolkien StaffordMost will agree that JRR Tolkien is one of the world’s most successful writers whose books are read the world over and became blockbuster films, but less known about is the huge influence that our wonderful county had on him.

Tolkien arrived in Staffordshire in August 1915 as a young Army officer and so would begin a connection with Staffordshire that would span the remaining years of the Great War.  He spent time on the Great War training camps on Cannock Chase.  Here he remained until he was sent to France in June 1916 where he saw action at the Battle of the Somme.

In the spring of 1916 Tolkien’s wife Edith moved to nearby Great Haywood so that she could be close to him. He would visit as often as possible, walking down from Brocton across the Shugborough Estate and crossing Essex Bridge into the village. The village would host the couple later that year when Tolkien returned from France to recuperate from trench fever. Here he began work on writings that would form origin stories for Middle-earth – The Fall of Gondolin and The Cottage of Lost Play – the first stories of The Book of Lost Tales.

It’s an amazing story and we’re incredibly proud that Staffordshire had such an influence on Tolkien’s writing.  It’s great to see some of our most treasured locations like Shugborough Hall, Essex Bridge, Brocton Coppice and the beautiful Sherbrook Valley on Cannock Chase, all providing such wonderful inspiration.

This month I’d urge people to take some time to visit our exciting new exhibition that will be in Stafford Library celebrating his life and his links with Staffordshire.  Learn about what shaped his novels, see copies of illustrations he made in Staffordshire, old photos and have a go on a Morse code machine.  You can watch a quick video here of the exhibition.

The exhibition has been touring the county now since March 2016 and Over 70,000 visitors have turned up to see it.  It’s been so popular we’ve even had to add some additional dates to the tour.  You can find out more about the story and where it’s due to visit next at the Staffordshire Great War website

£70m regional partnership to create 700 jobs

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
Keele Deal

Keele University

This week we saw the announcement of the ‘Keele Deal’ which aims to create Seven hundred jobs and help support over 1,000 businesses.  It’s part of an exciting £70m research-led collaboration with Keele University, neighbouring Councils, health partners and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

The New Keele Deal will deliver a unique deal designed to stimulate growth of the knowledge-based economy in the region and support businesses to access Keele University’s world-class research and facilities.  Working together we will help businesses to become more competitive, produce better quality products and improve customer services, and develop their leadership around innovation.  Not only will it bring growth and create high quality jobs for the area, it will also improve healthcare locally through greater research and development of new treatments.

The Deal really is unique nationally and will put Staffordshire at the forefront of the UK’s emerging industrial vision.  Alongside this, the County Council is also set to commit to a £2million investment in the new Innovation Centre at Keele University Science and Innovation Park.  Again, the new Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership will help support our local business leaders to develop the skills needed to innovate and grow their businesses and create even more quality jobs for local people.

Click here to watch a video explaining how the Keele deal will benefit the county.


Lights, camera, action as foster carers take centre stage in New Year campaign

Friday, January 6th, 2017
Fostering Join Us Campaign

Fostering Join Us Campaign

The start of a new year is also the perfect time to try something different or take on a new challenge. So this year, why not think about becoming a foster carer.

You will have heard me say this before, but foster carers play a vital role in transforming children’s lives, giving them a loving and stable home and helping them to reach their true potential.

We are always looking for new foster families and hope to recruit around 60 this year.  To do this, we have launched our latest campaign, featuring real Staffordshire foster carers who bravely went in front of the camera and screen asking people to Join Us’.  You can watch our behind the scenes video here and hear their experiences.

Over the next few months, our fostering stars will be appearing on billboards across the county, so watch out for them.  And if it is something you may be interested in, then there is also a series of fostering information evenings taking place where you can find out more.  Dates and times at

Congratulations to Staffordshire residents recognised in New Year’s Honours list

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and a happy new year.  And speaking of New Year, once again it was great to see so many people from the county being recognised in the Queen’s Honours list.

We saw people from Staffordshire take their place alongside household names from sports, entertainment and the arts. Leading the way with a knighthood is Staffordshire equestrian Lee Pearson CBE, adding gold and silver in Rio to his previous tally of 12 medals. Also recognised was Uttoxeter swimmer Adam Peaty, who received an MBE for smashing world records on his way to collecting individual gold and relay silver. It was great to see our local athletes on the world stage with amazing performances in the summer and it’s fitting their years of training and dedication should be recognised by Her Majesty.

It’s not all about the stars though.  It’s also good to see that those who dedicate themselves in other ways, for example by helping their communities over many years, should also share the limelight at a time like this and be celebrated for their selfless efforts.

I would like to say a huge congratulations to all our Staffordshire residents recognised including, an OBE for Colin Bryan, of Tamworth, the CEO of Drayton Manor, for services to charity and the community; an OBE for David Gould, of Tamworth, for services to education; a BEM for Peter John Cave, of Newcastle, for his work with victims of, and witnesses to, crime; a BEM for David William Emley, of Stone, for services to higher education and natural history; a BEM to Margaret Heath, of Newcastle, for services to the community; and a BEM to Agnes Tiso, of Tamworth, for services to the community.