2016: A Golden Year for Staffordshire

Adam Peaty swimming

Superstar Uttoxeter swimmer Adam Peaty is heading to the Rio Olympics

2016 has been a fabulous year for Staffordshire and it’s only when we stop and take stock that you realise how much work has been done in the last 12 months to help residents and just how much there is to celebrate about the county’s past and present.

January: The year got off to a flying start with the news that a national catering spares distributor had been granted permission to build its new headquarters at Kingswood Lakeside Business Park in Cannock. First Choice Group’s move to larger premises will allow it to grow and potentially double the number of employees from its current 130. Other major projects include the installation of a new bridge across the West Coast Mainline to open up Liberty Park, Lichfield; preparation of Bericote Four Ashes, in South Staffordshire, which is to become home to Gestamp – safeguarding 800 local jobs; and the provision of infrastructure for the new business park at Meaford, near Stone.

February: Successful completion of more work meant that 90 per cent of homes and businesses in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent could connect to superfast fibre broadband, as a result of the county council’s work with BT and private investment.

March: Parents across the county discovered whether their children had been allocated a place at their preferred secondary school. And again, Staffordshire proved to have one of the highest success rates in the country, with 98 per cent of 7,406 applicants allocated one of their top three selections – and 94 per cent their first choice.

April: With 11 libraries already in the process of transferring to the community, bidding began to take over the day-to-day running and management of the remaining 12.  As 2016 draws to an end the process is nearing completion, with a church group, village association and a health trust among the bidders taking over.

wedgwoodstatue1May: The first ever Staffordshire Day on May 1st was a huge success for the county, with residents, tourist attractions and other businesses taking advantage of the Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate Staffordshire and all its achievements. Dozens of street parties and other events, including at Rudyard Lake, were held across the county

June: Thousands of competitors showed their mettle by lining up for the second IRONMAN 70.3 event to be held in Staffordshire.  More than 2,000 local, national and international competitors took part, generating an estimated £2 million for the local economy, while many of the non-elite athletes used the opportunity to raise money for their preferred charity.

July: Just as pupils, parents and teachers were preparing for the summer holidays, new figures revealed that the number of primary and secondary schools in the county rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted had risen to 85 per cent – an increase of 15 percentage points from the position in 2013. Education chiefs praised not only the sustained effort in the class rooms, but the work commissioned behind the scenes to improve standards.

August: Staffordshire’s Olympians and Paralympians played their part in making it a golden summer in Rio for the GB squad. Uttoxeter swimmer Adam Peaty smashed the world record on his way to an individual gold medal and a relay silver. Stone canoeist Joe Clarke, seized gold too with Paralympian Lee Pearson winning gold and silver.

September: Parents benefited as Staffordshire was chosen as one of eight authorities in the country to pilot the introduction of 30 hours’ free childcare for three and four-year-olds. This meant more than 400 parents were able to enrol through some of the county’s largest employers – either allowing them to take on more hours’ work, or keep some money in their pocket.

October: Work began on a package of road and infrastructure developments, including a new bridge, to enable developers to get to work on the multi-million Branston Locks development near Burton. Eventually 400 acres of land immediately west of the A38 will be developed with 2,500 new homes, a range of community facilities and a 50-acre employment site, which will be known as Quintus. It will also include retail, health, leisure and recreational facilities, as well as provision for older people. Separate developments on land nearby will see new primary and high schools built by the county council. The total investment in the area could be more than £800 million.

November: Plans for the creation of 3,500 jobs and 660 start-up businesses in South Staffordshire over the next four years were agreed by the county and district councils. Included in the package was the provision of skills training so  young people could meet local employers’ needs, help for older people to get back into work and a healthier living programme. District deals are also in place in Newcastle, where more than £40 million is being invested in the town centre, Burntwood, the Moorlands and Stafford.Philip Atkins with flag 1

December: The year drew to a close with many projects well underway, such as the installation of a new junction on the A50; or coming to fruition, as with the opening of the new £1.5 million household waste recycling centre in Uttoxeter. Finally joblessness also remained the lowest in the West Midlands at 0.9 per cent proving the county’s efforts to boost the economy, attract new investment and jobs are paying off.

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