Archive for July, 2018

Celebrating completion of highways work for multi-million pound development scheme

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

This month I met with our partners to mark the completion of a major road scheme supporting the exciting Branston Locks development.

I’ve blogged about this before but Branston Locks is a huge project for Burton that will see 400 acres of land immediately west of the A38 developed with 2,500 new homes, a range of community facilities and a 50-acre employment site.

The development also includes a new 1,550 place high school on land nearby – the first in 25 years – and looking to the future a new primary school will also be built. The total investment in the area could be over £800million.

This is great news for the people of the Burton area and an excellent example of how we are working together across the public and private sectors to create new better paid jobs, sustained economic growth and flourishing local communities.

Castle House opens for business

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

This week we’re celebrating the opening of the brand new £15.4 million civic centre Castle House, next to Queens Gardens in the centre of Newcastle.  This is an exciting development which will bring together services from the County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire Police and Aspire Housing’s customer services department.

This is a major investment for the town which will help boost the local economy.  By pulling together all these services under one roof in the centre of town, it will also make life easier for Newcastle’s residents.  At the same time moving out of old buildings will save taxpayers millions of pounds in the long run and help local businesses by concentrating hundreds of workers close to the shops.

The four storey building will also be home to a modern library and register office with the library on the ground and first floors.  As well as thousands of books, the library will have a dedicated children’s area, space for accessing archive materials and the photographic collections of national museums and galleries.

Castle House is a significant development for the town and great news for people in Newcastle.  It’s also the largest investment in the town in recent years.

Looking out for older relatives

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

There’s nothing like a good World Cup to galvanise the country, local communities and bring together neighbourhoods and families.  While it does feel like a distant memory now, the country was united even if football hasn’t come home.

Bringing families together and looking out for each other especially older family members and relatives is something I’ve blogged about many times before.  One of the biggest challenges facing us all is the fact that we are living longer but sadly not everyone is always staying in good health as we get older, and this in turn can put extra pressures on everyone.  An aging population is to be welcomed, however, it does require additional resources and that is why we are spending a record £310m on care this year.

But there’s a lot that we can do to help ourselves and those close to us live into later life more independently and I want to share some examples I’ve heard about from people I’ve spoken to.

Our new home improvement Agency SILIS (Supporting Independent Living in Staffordshire) is there to give help and advice about home adaptations such as stair lifts and bathroom adaptions, and housing options. Click here to find out more about SILIS by clicking this link.

There are also a wide range of small items which can make a huge difference to people’s lives such as Things that can help you make washing and dressing easier, gadgets to help with cooking, cleaning and everyday household tasks and clever fixes to make your favourite chair easier to get in and out of.  For those who need a bit of help with remembering and sorting out their tablets, there are also services available from your local pharmacy such as blister packs or pill dispensers.

Advancements in smart technologies are also impacting on our lives and often providing solutions.  Amazon, Google and Apple have all launched smart speakers, which as well as playing music, controlling our lighting and heating and linking us to a wealth of information, can also act as personal assistants.  They can prompt and remind us about tasks and appointments and connect us to friends and family by voice command.

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future and take steps to make life the best it can be and remember, small changes can make a big difference.

County’s growth plans In front of Select Committee

Friday, July 13th, 2018

This week we will see a renewed focus on the County Council’s efforts to boost the economy, deliver major business investment projects and create nearly 20,000 jobs by 2024.

We’re almost half way through our  decade-long growth programme and we’ve already seen 15 projects completed and £160million investment.   This is great news for people in Staffordshire and part of our promise to create more better paid jobs for the county.

An update on progress is being presented to our Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee.  They will be told that for every £1 invested by the county council, £13.60 worth of private investment is levered in. So far on the completed sites there are already 6,650 people working or jobs committed.

On top of this, the committee will also be told that projects underway are valued at £204million – £15million of which is from direct county council investment.

But as well as major business and infrastructure development, the county council’s growth programme includes support for existing businesses, the development of skills to meet the needs of employers and the roll-out of initiatives like superfast fibre broadband.  For example we have helped support over 6,000 businesses over the last four years.

As I have blogged about before, we already have near full employment in Staffordshire with millions more investment in the pipeline, and more jobs on route.  This is all helping to make us a more prosperous county.

Making sure we have good road and rail links

This week Midlands Connect, the partnership responsible for powering the strategic transport plans for the Midlands Engine also published its annual report.

This is a very important area of work for Staffordshire and the wider region that is focusing on the strategic options for transport and connectivity.  Good roads and rail links are crucial for residents, businesses and continuing to grow a strong economy and we will continue to work with our partners to make sure this is in place.

In Staffordshire, our motorways are extremely busy and it is vital that we invest in a robust road network to meet day-to-day travel demands and support all our growth projects.

The Government is also looking to create a new Major Road Network (MRN) to identify and fund improvements to key roads and, with our partners, we will be looking to see some of these strategic A roads and well as motorways included in the MRN.  This together with improving the M6/M54 north link, creating better motorway junctions and encouraging more travel on public commercial buses and trains , will be key in easing congestion, reducing pressure on the motorway network and securing long-term growth and development.  You can read the full report here.

 

Enjoying the hot weather and staying safe

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

I’m sure most people have been enjoying the hot weather over the past few weeks and with it expected to continue, we’ve issued some advice on making the most of it and staying safe.

Here’s a sample but in a nutshell, be careful in the countryside, don’t swim in open water and keep an eye out for your elderly neighbours.  And spare a thought for the animals and live-stock.

Enjoying the countryside

After weeks of hot weather and little rain, the countryside is extremely dry which means the risk of fires is particularly high. We’ve already seen a number of quite serious grass and forest fires in parts of the county and we want to try and prevent this from happening again. Wild fires can threaten people, property and wildlife, putting lives at risk.

If you are planning to visit the countryside or our country parks then you can help keep everyone safe by following our rangers’ simple advice:

  • Please bring a picnic on your day out rather than a barbecue as these could start a fire.
  • We’re also reminding people not to light camp fires as the same thing could happen
  • Please don’t smoke in areas of dry vegetation and in all areas please make sure cigarettes are put out properly
  • Please put any rubbish in bins or take it home with you, especially glass and plastic bottles as they can magnify sunlight and cause fires
  • You may also find some paths or roads are closed due to high fire risk or where fires are being tackled – please follow all safety signs and find alternative routes to ensure you stay safe
  • If anyone does see a fire please call 999 immediately

Don’t swim in open waters

Open water like lakes and reservoirs can be very tempting for people to cool down in during hot weather, but they can be extremely dangerous too.

They may look very inviting but they can be very deep and cold even in direct sunlight. Even the most experienced swimmers can find themselves struggling in a few minutes. Our message is very simple, ‘please don’t take the risk,’ and if you have children, talk to them about the dangers.

We would always urge people who want to go swimming to be safe and go to public, supervised pools. You can find out where your nearest leisure centres are online.

Looking after your neighbours in the hot weather

Not everyone enjoys the hot weather. While most of us will welcome this hot spell, for some, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and young children, the summer heat can be a real pain and bring with it health risks.

That’s why we’re reminding everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk this summer. If you’re able, remember to ask if your friends, family or neighbours need any support.

Here’s some simple advice to help beat the heat in the hot weather

  • Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler.  Remember, it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
  • Drink plenty of water as sugary, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can make you more dehydrated
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
  • Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
  • Make sure you take water with you if you are travelling

Showcasing £70m regional partnership to support local businesses

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Last week we got the chance to showcase exciting plans to support over 1,000 innovative businesses as part of a regional collaboration to Small Business Minister, Andrew Griffiths MP

The New Keele Deal is enabling businesses to access Keele University’s world-class research and facilities, providing training in innovation leadership and facilitate supply chain development across a range of sectors.  Seven hundred jobs are being created as a result of the deal to stimulate growth of the knowledge-based economy in the area.  It’s a substantial project that will see Keele University work with the County Council, Staffordshire University, other local authorities and health partners.

It’s a great example of how we are working closely together with key partners to fully utilise the knowledge and expertise we have to improve productivity, innovation and employment opportunities for our residents.  It means we can play our role in developing the UK’s emerging Industrial Strategy.

As a county council we have already invested £2million in the new Smart Innovation Centre at Keele University Science and Innovation Park to support businesses to grow in addition to our previous £7million investment in Innovation Centre 5 at the site.

This is all part of our plans to support local businesses, grow our economy  and help create more better paid jobs for people in Staffordshire