Archive for May, 2017

Remembering the Battle of Messines and its Staffordshire connections 100 years on

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines

On 7 June 1917 Allied troops were fighting their way into the village of Messines in Belgium in one of the most successful offensives of WWI.  But many people may not be aware of the close connections to Staffordshire and the vital role of the two military training camps on Cannock Chase during the Great War.

It was here that over half a million troops from across the UK and abroad were trained for fighting on the Western Front. You can still see the lines of practice trenches, the railway, remains of the parade ground and hut bases, and a Great War Hut next to the Marquis Drive Visitors Centre. Today, they survive as some of the most complete Great War archaeological sites in the country.

men from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were also based at the training camps where they built a scaled model of part of the battlefield at Messines which was used to train troops about battle tactics and skills like map reading.  We’re incredibly proud and lucky to have such an important piece of history on Cannock Chase which is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country. The model was excavated and recorded by archaeologists in 2013.  The 100th anniversary of the battle is 7 to 14 June and you can watch a video with Steve Dean, our county archaeologist as he explains the connections.  Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines.

Anyone interested in Staffordshire’s role during the Great War or Cannock Chase’s wider history can also come along to our free commemoration event on the weekend of 24th and 25th June.  You’ll get the chance to experience a WWI field hospital, take a tour of the Great War hut and watch films of the time in an authentic period cinema. There’s a full sized replica SE5A Fighter Plane too and the Birmingham Pals will demonstrate mining techniques and infantry training methods from the period.

We do have a fascinating history in Staffordshire and If you can’t make the event and are interested in finding out more about our WWI connections, there’s lots of stories at www.staffordshiregreatwar.com.

Welcoming new county councillors

Friday, May 26th, 2017

This week we had our first Full Council meeting since the election in May and welcomed 31 new members to the Chamber. As well as welcoming our new colleagues and looking forward to working with them to help improve the lives of people in Staffordshire, the meeting was also an opportunity to thank former councillors for all their hard work for the council and for the communities they represented.

I will continue as leader of the council and announced my Cabinet which has been shaped to give members an even greater influence on how the council works with local communities in particular.  In addition to executive and scrutiny roles, the new administration will also see dedicated support members assigned to borough and districts to help shape more community-led action over the coming years.

Four new All Party Member Groups will also be created to support the council’s long term policy ambitions and look into specific potential issues and proposals for how public services can continue to deliver better outcomes for Staffordshire people.

I would also like to welcome Michael Greatorex and Kath Perry who were chosen as Chairman and Vice  Chairman of the county council and wish them well in their new roles.

As I have spoken about many times before we have a good track record on delivering on investment, growing the economy, creating quality jobs and working with families to ensure children and young people get the best start in life, but we are not complacent and know there is more hard work yet to be done.

There will be more challenges ahead, but over the next four years our key priorities will be to continue to grow a strong economy, focus more on skills and learning, work to deliver better joined up health and social care and support communities to take action on the issues which are important to them.

New Vice Chair Kath Perry and Chair Michael Greatorex

Countdown on for IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

It’s hard to believe it’s almost a year since our last IRONMAN, but it’s back for the third time and there’s now less than a month to go.

The world-famous competition  on Sunday 18 June will once again see competitors complete a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile half marathon.  Last year’s event was a huge success  and saw more than 2,000 athletes take part from all over the world.   Thousands also turned out to lend their support and watch at spectating hotspots along the route.

Our previous two events gave us a great opportunity to really showcase what a fantastic county Staffordshire is and I have no doubt that this year’s competition will be even better.

As like previous years there are also opportunities for people to get involved as a volunteer. If you do fancy this, you could be joining a team of over 500, including stewards, medical staff and technical officials, getting the chance to gain great experience of working behind the scenes of a world-renowned event.  You can find out more at www.ironman.com/ukvolunteers

The event will also involve some diversions and road closures to help keep everyone safe and we have put together some information to help people plan their journeys on the day.  You’ll find some useful maps and details at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/ironman.

And remember, you can also follow the route of the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire on an interactive map at www.enjoystaffordshire.com/ironman

Good luck to everyone taking part.

Making a difference in local communities

Friday, May 12th, 2017

There are lots of people in our communities going out of their way to make a real difference within their local neighbourhoods and following the County Council’s local elections on 4 May, 62 councillors were chosen by the people to represent them.

I would like to thank everyone who voted in the election as well as all those who stood as candidates. We will be welcoming 31 new councillors to the role and I am looking forward to working with them to help improve the lives of people in Staffordshire.

I would also like to thank those councillors who will not be re-joining us in the council chamber this year for all their hard work for the council and for the communities they represented.

Being a County Councillor is an important role and as the voice of the community, they play a vital role making democracy work in Staffordshire.  Working together they’ll make decisions which affect everybody, with overall responsibility for the work the council does – for its policies and how well it performs.

Our priority over the coming four years, as it has been will be to continue to grow our local economy, create better jobs and support more people to lead healthier, more independent lives for as long as possible.

Furthermore, Staffordshire is now one of the strongest economic regions in the UK and working together we will continue to make it a great place to live, work and visit.