Archive for September, 2018

In the footsteps of J.R.R Tolkien

Friday, September 28th, 2018

It is a little known fact that Staffordshire had a major influence on the writings of one of the world’s greatest authors.

J.R.R Tolkien, author of best sellers The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings spent a short period of his early life living in Staffordshire, in particular during the Great War when posted to the Army training camps on Cannock Chase.

It was here that he got much of his inspiration for his works on the mythology, languages, history and landscape of what would become Middle-earth, the fictional world in which his stories are based.

To celebrate our proud connections, our Libraries Service have organised a series of guided walks that will take people through the landscapes and landmarks that had such an influence on his writing.

There are two walks taking place during October and November.  The Great Haywood Tolkien Trail is a ten mile walk on Sunday 21 October and the Cannock Chase Tolkien Trail, a slightly longer walk at 12 miles, on Thursday 8 November.

On the Great Haywood walk you’ll discover Brocton Coppice, the Sherbrook Valley, the village itself, or “Tavrobel”, Essex Bridge “The Grey Bridge of Tavrobel”, and Shugborough Hall “The House of a Hundred Chimneys” amongst others.

And, on the Cannock Chase walk you’ll get the chance to visit the Great War sites of Rugeley and Brocton Camps, including places where Tolkien himself was based.

The trails are perfect for Tolkien fans with not only a great opportunity to learn more about the connections but are also  a fun and healthy way to get out and explore some of our wonderful countryside.  If it sounds like your thing and you’re up for a good walk, you can book your place by calling 0300 111 8000.

Making sure we have the right housing for Staffordshire to prosper

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

We are all aware of the importance of growing our economy and attracting good quality jobs to the area and how everyone will benefit from this.

But, equally important to this, is the need to have more homes and in particular a good mix of different types of homes that people want to live in.

Our colleagues in the borough and district councils are already doing well in delivering housing, but we must find a way to support them to speed up the rate that homes are being built and where we want them.   An important part of this is also making sure that the right infrastructure is in place, including new roads, schools, electricity, drainage and broadband supply.

If we don’t have enough houses in the right places, we risk prices rising faster than incomes, young people finding it harder to live where they want and a greater risk of skilled and highly-educated workers draining from Staffordshire.

Over the next few months we will be exploring ideas and proposals which could see the county council working with established house builders to deliver the right type of homes or with the private sector to build houses on land owned by the authority.

We would also look to increase choice by encouraging self-build and more developments from smaller construction companies and ensure any infrastructure is in place.

I will keep you updated on our ideas

Planning for a balanced budget

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

We have a great story to tell here in Staffordshire with a flourishing economy, continuing investment and the creation of more better quality jobs.  We also have incredibly low unemployment, currently better than the regional and national figures, so there’s plenty to be proud of.

But at the same time, you will also have heard me say that local councils continue to face some of the most difficult financial conditions in modern times and because of this we have published our draft budget proposals early.  Over the next few months we will be working with partners, staff and yourselves as we finalise our budget and spending plans for the next year.

Growing demands on caring for our elderly and increased pressures on children’s services remain our biggest challenges. For example, ten years ago we spent £200 million on care, rising this year to our largest ever spend of £315 million –  all being invested to help support the most vulnerable in our communities.

But with increasing costs going out and less money coming in, the current situation is simply unsustainable.  And like managing your household budget, we can’t spend more than we have coming in.  This means we will have to prioritise things to make sure we can help the people in our communities with the most need.

We have been swift to recognise the enormity of the financial challenge and over the last nine years have already made efficiency savings worth around £240 million.

We continue to innovate and do things differently. We will continue to work more closely with partners like the NHS, police and the voluntary sector to help make people’s lives better.

In addition to this, we will also be asking people to do more for themselves and where possible support their neighbours and communities to help find solutions to local issues.

By working together and us all doing our bit, I know we can  continue to build a prosperous and more productive Staffordshire for the years to come which we can all enjoy.  A great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to raise a family.

New medical centre for Burntwood

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Later this month we’ll be showcasing exciting plans for a brand new medical centre in Burntwood on the former Greenwood House Nursing Home site.

The site, on Lichfield Road, will be home to the Darwin Medical Practice and contain 13 new consulting rooms, five treatment rooms and a health education space.  There is also potential for an adjoining pharmacy.

Improving health and wellbeing, and supporting independence for everyone remains a priority for the county council.  Not only is the new centre great news for local residents but it Should also help reduce pressure on local hospitals with purpose-built, modern facilities designed to meet the demands of our ageing population.

Here’s an artist’s impression of what the new centre could look like and on 18 September we’ll be giving people the chance to look through and comment on the proposals.  If you’re interested in the project you can view the plans and meet the team at Burntwood Memorial Institute on Rugeley Road, between 4pm and 7pm.  The plans will also be available online from 18 September at www.staffordshire.gov.uk./greenwoodhouse

Could you foster a child one weekend per month?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll be aware of the important role of our foster families and their work in giving children a loving home.

This month, we’re asking people if they could foster a child for one weekend per month.  It’s known as short break fostering and it involves looking after a child for a short period, usually over the weekend but can also be during school holidays.  It could include looking after a child to give the full-time fosters a break, or providing respite for a child with a disability or supporting adoptive parents.

Like any type of fostering it’s really rewarding and you’ll get access to all the training and support on offer to full-time carers plus a competitive allowance.  It is also a great way of ‘testing the water’ to see if fostering is for you and to grow your experience to maybe foster full-time one day

These are children who really do need your help, so if it’s something you might consider or know of someone who is thinking about it then please get in touch.

Watch out for our special roadshows and information events running across the county over the next few months. You can also find out more at www.shortbreakfostering.info  or by calling 0800 169 2061.