Meeting with the Transport Minister

I met Patrick McLoughlin MP Secretary of State for Transport this week and made the case for the need to deliver a truly connected county to benefit people across Staffordshire.  Patrick, who is a former Staffordshire County Councillor from 1981 to 1987 when I was first elected is currently responsible for all things transport and we spoke about how first class infrastructure, and reliable and sustainable transport were vital to delivering the council’s ambitions on jobs and growth.

The meeting was very productive and I took the opportunity to raise our concerns over HS2.  I made it clear that we are opposed to the project and if the scheme does go ahead, we will look to maximise any economic potential, minimise the inevitable environmental impact and will continue to ensure residents’ receive meaningful compensation if their homes or livelihoods are affected.

At our Cabinet meeting last week we also gave the green light for a new approach to help families in Staffordshire live healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Having taken on the remit for public health in April, we have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at the wider impact on health and wellbeing. We will be looking at more accessible streamlined services and how to maximise use of the £32m budget to commission services in an integrated way.  We want better support to help people make changes across all aspects of their lifestyles – not just on one aspect, such as giving up smoking. We will also be investing in prevention work – through screening and vaccination programmes where appropriate.

I did not realise how important the Battle of Messines Ridge was in the final days of WW1 until I watched a recent documentary .  We are now in week three on the excavation of the model trench at Brocton on Cannock Chase that I have mentioned before. Every week reveals more of this fascinating story which is also being eagerly followed by the media.  BBC News 24 have reported from the site and the story has even reached as far as the New Zealand Herald.

The level of detail in the model is incredible, particularly the depiction of bombed out buildings and field boundaries. Before the excavation we weren’t sure how much of the model would have survived, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

The main area of the town of Messines has now been excavated and lies beneath a covering of blue plastic to protect it from the elements. The team are now moving to the south of the town to join up with the small area of fighting trenches that were excavated during the first week of the dig.

Volunteers from Landrover are also working in the north-eastern corner of the site and have uncovered the north-eastern strong point based around a ruined farmhouse (and protected by fighting trenches) which protected the German position at Messines from attack.

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