Creating the right conditions to help businesses flourish and give more people the skills and the opportunities to get better paid jobs

The big news over the last week has been the budget – designed to help businesses, children looking for adoption and people looking to secure better paid jobs.

While we work through the finer detail and what it means for people here in Staffordshire, some of the highlights include: an extra £8bn for the NHS, more support for businesses to create three million apprenticeships, car tax money being diverted to a new Roads Fund.  Further details are also expected on new enterprise zones and when powers on Sunday trading laws will be passed to local authorities.

As a county council, we are committed to creating the right conditions to help businesses flourish, attract investment and give more people the skills and the opportunities to get better paid jobs.

We’re very proud of apprenticeships and the contribution they make in growing our local economy and definitely welcome the additional places being made available.  Last year over 11,000 people started an apprenticeship here in Staffordshire; nearly double that of five years ago.  And, the number of higher level apprentices continues to grow also doubling in the last three years.  New apprenticeships in high-tech engineering have also increased by 39% in the last five years and are vital in securing future growth in the area.

Later this month we will also be recognising the county’s apprentices at the first Staffordshire apprenticeship graduation ceremony.  The event will celebrate the achievement of Higher and Advanced apprentices as well as raising the profile of Apprenticeships, in a bid to put them on an equal footing with a university route to success.

Still time for an opportunity for communities to run their own library – At the start of the year we outlined plans to reshape and safeguard our libraries by ensuring they are more flexible and responsive to people’s changing needs. This isn’t about closing libraries – all of our libraries will remain open. It is  about making sure our libraries move with the times, keep up to date and remain part of the community.

Part of that is  about supporting local community groups  in 23 areas and giving them the opportunity to develop and manage their own library.  Community Managed Libraries are about creating local spaces for the long term that offer a quality library service that meet the needs of local people.  This isn’t a new concept and we have seen how  this works well elsewhere in the country. .

We know that strong, vibrant communities can be built and renewed by the people living in them. Finding solutions together to make services more flexible and usable for local people not only gives people the chance to get involved and enjoy life, but helps them to take advantage of opportunities.

Managing and developing community libraries is a challenge, but I want to reassure people that Staffordshire County Council  will be there to support community groups that are chosen. It will be their decision as to how they  make best use of the library space and the partners and activities which they may wish to deliver. They will  have access to paid support from the Library Service to and will  remain part of the Staffordshire Library network.

This is a great opportunity to transform our local libraries so that people really benefit and with just a few weeks to go before the deadline for applications we’re urging people to register to find out more. Details are available on  The closing date for applications is Friday 31 July 2015.

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