‘Powerhouse Central’

At the risk of repeating myself, “Creating more jobs by encouraging the local economy to grow is our top priority”, and you may be aware of the work we are doing with colleagues at Stoke-on-Trent City Council to secure a City Deal from Government.

We have called our City Deal plan ‘Powerhouse Central’ and it aims to build on our unique heritage, know-how and skills of the people of our county and city.  If we are successful in our ask of government, it will give us greater powers and funding to invest in regeneration, skills and infrastructure schemes and help create thousands of jobs over the next decade.  If we secure a Deal I’m confident that we make better use of our energy sources and make the city and county an international powerhouse in advanced materials production.

The coming months will be an exciting time for us as we enter into the next stage of negotiations with the Government. I will be part of a team meeting with ministers and top civil servants over the summer and autumn to persuade them to agree to our offer.

Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her 87th birthday at the weekend and we have seen more people recognised for their contributions to society and their local communities in her Honours list.  An impressive number of the awarded men and women were from the West Midlands and I’d like to give my congratulations to those honoured, with particular mention to Eric Douglas Emery, from Uttoxeter, a volunteer car driver with the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, who has been awarded a BEM for services to Health.

I’ve also been out and about across the county with our Chief Executive Nick Bell meeting and listening to what our staff have to say about their work.  So far we’ve been to Cannock and Leek and I’ve been very impressed with the great work being done in all our departments and the willingness to embrace new ways of working.  As I told staff, we are developing a unique way in our delivery of services for our residents that other public sector partners look to for example.

Several months ago we wrote to and met with the Department for Education to ask for a rethink on their school funding reforms.  We realised the proposed changes would have an adverse effect on many of our schools but I’m glad to say our recommendations were listened to and taken on board.

As a result of our feedback, an important change saw the introduction of a ‘sparsity factor’ which, under certain conditions, would allow essential small and rural schools to access more funding which is better for Staffordshire.  We will always fight our corner against changes that harm our county.

We’ve had a busy first cabinet meeting since the county elections in May, but we’ve already agreed and signed off a number of key plans.  A decision has been made to invest a further £3.8million into care home services.  We have agreed to increase the fees we pay to local residential care homes in order to provide older people with a quality service at an affordable price.  The fees, which have not changed since 2010-11, will increase by an average of 13.2%.

We have also agreed to look for a new strategic partner to deliver highways services for the county for the next ten years.  This would allow us to invest in infrastructure and support our ambitious growth plans to bring jobs and prosperity to the county.  Excellent highways and transport links are crucial to a connected county and as the current highways arrangements end in April, it offers a great opportunity to look at our options.

For people keen on recycling, we have just approved a new management contract with waste management firm FCC which will see new services, centres open for longer and opportunities to recycle much more stuff.  In addition to the improved recycling facilities, small businesses and sole traders will be able to benefit from a new service provided at the centres at affordable prices.  New reuse opportunities will be available at the sites – giving people the chance to make use of goods no longer wanted by others.  The new arrangements will help us make average savings of £240,000 a year.

Remember to keep an eye on this blog or follow me on twitter @PEBAtkins for the latest news.
Philip Atkins

Leader of Staffordshire County Council

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