Archive for July, 2020

Standing down as Leader

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

This is a blog post I knew I would have to write one day and that day has come.

After 11 years as Leader of the county council, I have taken the difficult decision to stand down and hand over the reins.

Regular readers of my blog will remember I was first elected to the county council back in 1987 where I represented Uttoxeter Rural division. 33 years on and I’m still there and more so, our great county is unrecognisable.

Both Staffordshire and the council have changed enormously in the three decades and for me, there have been many highlights. The innovation of extra care homes has led to a different and much better way of caring for our elderly, and, through the dedication and hard work of both Members and staff, we’ve taken Children’s Services from an Inadequate Ofsted rating when I became Leader to close to Outstanding today which means children are safer.

Landmark developments such as i54 South Staffordshire, Keele Innovation Centre 5 and 6, Branston Locks, Stafford Western Access Road, Redhill, Lichfield Southern Bypass and more are all projects I am very proud of.  These have all helped put Staffordshire on the map while creating more better quality jobs for people.

The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard in 2009 is also something I won’t forget about in a hurry. I still remember how exciting it was, not just for everyone at the county council but for everyone in Staffordshire and even across the globe.

It’s not every day you find the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold in the world. It certainly put Staffordshire on the world map as has the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when Staffordshire even got a mention at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding as Patrons of the NMA in Staffordshire, one of our four National Centres, National Football, National Forest and National Brewing Centres.

There’s many more highlights, too many to mention, but you’ll find details throughout my blog.

I really have had the privilege of working with so many brilliant people all helping to improve the lives of the people who live and work in our great county. 

Also serving as Deputy Leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council, vice chairman of the County Councils Network, Chairman of West Midlands Councils and been a member of Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect as well as serving as both school and college governors have all kept me busy.

And, in The Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2016, I was incredibly touched to have been awarded an OBE for services to local government.

As I stand down as leader, the County Council is in a strong position, and financially stable, and I have every confidence that we will bounce back from the Coronavirus pandemic which we have been battling over the last four months.

I still have work to do and hope to remain a  county councillor for Uttoxeter Rural so will stand at the next election. I offer the new leader and cabinet my continuing support in the months ahead.

I hope people are able to fulfil their dreams.

Please continue to be proud of our great county.

Managing our finances during Coronavirus

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

It was finance on the agenda at this morning’s Cabinet meeting where we gave an update on our performance and how we were continuing to manage finances, including throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

Before the virus struck, we had allocated two-thirds of this year’s budget to adult care and supporting vulnerable children and young people which still remain serious areas of concern because of rising costs.

At the start of the outbreak we created a £38 million Covid-19 ‘battle fund,’ that has helped support care homes, businesses families and schools to deal with the crisis.  And, while we are currently looking at a forecast overspend of £10.1 million, mostly due to COVID-19 we are currently managing the over spend well.

Lockdown restrictions are easing, but there is still a long way to go for the economy, both on a local and national level, to recover. We need to work with central Government to help our communities recover economically in the short term and, in the long term, find a sustainable solution to the national problem of providing social care.

The pandemic has definitely put extra pressures on our finances, but we will continue to do what is needed and to spend on what is required to get through it.

As before, the latest Coronavirus advice is available here

Please stay safe.

Good news for the hospitality sector and families eating out in August

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

In the Chancellor’s budget statement last week, Rishi Sunak announced a new scheme that would help boost the hospitality sector while giving families discounted dining on every Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

The hospitality sector is a really important sector for us here in Staffordshire but it has been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 crisis. It is now hoped that the Government-backed ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ Scheme would help to boost trade over August and protect jobs in the sector.

We have some fantastic restaurants and eateries across the county that we want to see get back on their feet and thriving again and I would encourage them to sign up to the scheme.

It’s a win-win situation, with local businesses getting a welcome boost and customers getting a 50 per cent reduction on food and soft drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per person. People won’t need vouchers either, as the discount will be automatically taken off the bill. 

Businesses can sign up for the scheme here and where they will be able to reclaim the discounts.

As more and more people start to get out to enjoy themselves safely, I do hope that both businesses and families take advantage of the offer.

Super Saturday and getting libraries opened

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

On Saturday and over the weekend, we saw hundreds of Staffordshire businesses open their doors for the first time since March as restrictions were eased. It meant that people were able to have a proper haircut, go to the cinema, and have a socially distanced pint in their local.

It’s been great to see our local businesses opening their doors once again, and I’m pleased to say that the majority of people across Staffordshire enjoyed the lifting of restrictions sensibly.

It’s really important to support our local businesses in the current economic climate, but we must remember that the threat of coronavirus has not gone away, so we need to continue following all the official advice.  This means continuing to social distance, washing hands, and following the government’s Test and Trace advice if called upon to do so.

On Monday, we also saw the start of a rephased opening of our 43 libraries, beginning with Burton, Newcastle and Stafford.  It’s not exactly business as usual yet, but it’s a welcome step in the right direction.

We are asking people to use an ‘order and collect’ service for books to start with and feedback so far is good. To keep people safe; there is no physical browsing or computer access yet, but remember, we still have access to a wealth of e-books, e-magazines and e-audio books available online, so there’s plenty to keep you going.

You can keep up to date with the Library Service via their social media and library web pages.

100 Days Since Lockdown

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

It’s hard to believe but on Wednesday, it was 100 days since the Prime Minister announced the lockdown back in March.

While we have made good progress since then in managing the outbreak, and with a further easing of the lockdown this weekend, it’s vital we don’t become complacent.  

The risks to our communities and to our local economies are still very much there and we must all do everything we can to stop a second peak of infections.

That means following all the advice, including social distancing, good personal hygiene and regular hand washing. If  people are symptomatic they should self-isolate, contact NHS111 and get tested.

If people are contacted by NHS Test and Trace because they have been in contact with a confirmed case they should self-isolate for 14 days.

In this next phase of managing the outbreak, along with Public Health England, the NHS and District and Borough Councils, we now have plans in place to swiftly identify, contain and stop any local outbreaks across the county. 

The main areas we’ll be focusing on are schools, care settings, local businesses, community settings and hard to reach communities such as the homeless.

Having our plans in place means we are able to monitor cases on a daily basis to ensure we are in a position to mobilise efforts to identify any outbreaks and do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Throughout the pandemic, the county has pulled together like never before and I’ve seen some amazing community spirit. But if we are to win this battle outright, we need to continue our efforts by taking precautions and following all the advice.

As always, the latest Coronavirus advice is available here

Please stay safe.