Helping families by freezing County Council Tax again this year

I have been in Manchester speaking about fiscal devolution to cities and city regions to the Communities and Local Government Committee – they are holding an inquiry into the subject and where looking for evidence from councils.

Staffordshire County Council were one of just four local authorities to be invited to speak to the panel of MPs and it was pleasing to put forward our case to Government that in Staffordshire we are in a strong position, based on our track record, to be given greater decision making powers.

I explained that national policies should support peri-urban and rural areas and not let them fall behind cities. Furthermore, counties should have greater influence on central Government spending to boost their own economies and opportunities for residents.

I have also attended the West Midlands Employers annual conference in Birmingham.  Andy Street, CEO of John Lewis and Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, along with  Dean Royles, CEO NHS Employers, and Jon West, Director of Employee Relations at Jaguar Land Rover where the key speakers.  They all spoke  about the challenges facing organisations and workforce development in the current financial pressures.  Some lively debates and plenty of food for thought.

Back to the day job for a busy full council meeting on Thursday with fellow County Councillors, where we approved next year’s budget and a 5 year plan which aims to make sure everyone has the opportunity to prosper, be healthy and enjoy their life.

This is an important time for all of us.  While we all have less money to spend than in the past, we need to be very clear about our priorities and continue to find new, innovative and better ways of doing things.

I understand that families are having to make every penny count these days and we don’t want to add extra burdens to household budgets. That is why we have again agreed to freeze county council tax which makes up the largest part of your bill. Three years of freeze and one of reduction makes Staffordshire the lowest county council tax in the country.

With young people in mind, I would like to remind people to have their say on our proposals for youth services before the consultation ends on 26 February.

People have until then to make their views known on a new approach that could see the county council move away from a traditional building focussed youth service.  Instead support would be targeted at those young people in greatest need of help, while we would work closer with schools and colleges, voluntary and community groups to provide a wider range of opportunities for all young people in their communities.

We are particularly keen to hear from the four out of five young people in the county who do not currently use our youth services.  So if you want to have your say please go to www.staffordshire.gov.uk/consultation

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