Agenda item

Statement of the Leader of the Council

The Leader will inform the Council about his work and his plans for the Council, and will give an overview of decisions taken by the Cabinet (and Portfolio Holders) since the previous meeting of the Council


The Leader of the Council presented a Statement outlining his recent work since the previous meeting of the Council.? 


Staffordshire Means Back to Business - Oral Update? 

(Paragraph 1 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Pert spoke about the low claimant rates in the County,which were 2% less than the regional average; job vacancy rates across various sectors of the local economy;the vital role played by the Council in supporting regeneration and local businesses;and how colleges and universities were equipping people with the skills needed by employers. 


Councillor Yates welcomed the recommencement of the highway works at the Chatterley Valley West employment siteand also the ongoing discussions in relation to access to the Wharf Road Business and Housing site in Biddulph. 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins enquired as to why the figures on disposable household income showed that Staffordshire was outperforming regional and national averages She also stated that despite these figures, many people were still reliant on food banks.  In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that further work needed to be done to get a better understanding of the reasons for the disposable income figures and that he would be happy to bring the findings back to Council in due course.  


Strategic Vision for Early Years 

(Paragraph 3 of the Statement) 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins enquired as to whether there were sufficient providers in Staffordshire to meet the additional demand arising from the Government’s move to extend the provision of funded childcare.  In response, Councillor Sutton explained that the Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recently discussed this issue and that the Sufficiency Team was also focussing on early years provision.  He added that the Council would work with providers to ensure that sufficient places were available to meet demand. 


Climate Change Annual Report (2023) and Draft Climate Change Action Plan, revision 3 (November 2023 

(Paragraph 4 of the Statement) 


Councillor Yates welcomed the 50% reduction in the Council’s carbon emissions that had been made since declaring a Climate Change Emergency in July 2019 He added that the Council was showing leadership in this regard, and he hoped that other organisations would follow in the Council’s steps He also welcomed the upgrading of street lighting across the county and that it was important that the Council continued to look at new ways of reducing its carbon emissions.  In response, Councillor Deaville referred to the opportunities available from the use of the Council’s Property Estate. 


Councillor Philip Atkins spoke about carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector and the siting of solar farms on land which would be better used for food production He added that the view of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) was that solar panels were best placed on buildings. 


Councillor Smith referred to the opportunities for quarry sites due for restoration to be used for “green purposes” such as the production of green energy He also spoke about the cost of connecting electric vehicle charging stations to the National Grid; and the tree planting which is taking place in his division. 


Councillor Francis referred to the limitation of solar panels over the winter months and also during adverse weather conditions He also expressed the view that if everyone was to switch to an electric vehicle,the energy distribution network could not cope. 


Councillor Winnington spoke about the role of wind farms in energy productionand also how solar farms would be best sited on brownfield sites and buildings. 


Councillor Hussain highlighted the carbon emissions arising from air travel and the need to send a message to Government about the detrimental impact of air travel by officials. 


Councillor Hudson referred to the new technologies being used by JCB including its investment in hydrogen engines which may prove to be a better solution than electric vehicles Councillor McMahon spoke about technological advancements in the search for greener energy. 


Councillor Tagg thanked Members for their comments and indicated that, although a lot had been achieved in reducing the Council’s carbon emissions, there still remained many challenges to overcome.  Councillor Alan White also spoke about global investment in renewable energies. 


Staffordshire Employment and Skills Strategy 2023-2030 

(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Wileman extended his congratulations to Burton and South Derbyshire College which had recently been rated as outstanding following an inspection by OFSTED. 


Councillor Afsar referred to labour shortages and asked whether there were any specific sectors being targeted under the Strategy.  In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that the priority areas identified in the Strategy included construction, advanced logistics, health and social care, the digitisation of services and new technologies.  


In welcoming the Strategy, Councillor Sutherland spoke about successes being achieved locally in Cannock Chaseincluding the construction training being provided by Cannock College, the jobs fairs taking place across the district and the low level of unemployment in the area Councillor Smith also referred to the 2500 nurses currently in training at Staffordshire University. 


Councillor Philip White spoke about the five aims of the Strategy and also why Staffordshire was a good place to learn.  he added that discussions were taking place with Government around skills funding and the need for that budget to be devolved to local Councils. 


Treasury Management Report for the half-year ended 30 September 2023 

(Paragraph 6 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Sutherland commended the work of the Councils Treasury Management Team and alsoreferred to the early repayment of £50 million of PWLB loans which would save the County Council £199,000 p.a. based on current interest rates. 


Local and National Government Budgets 

(Paragraph 7 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins enquired as to whether the Leader of the Council agreed with the Local Government Association that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement failed to provide the funding needed to protect local services which people rely on She referred in particular to the rising cost of Children’s social care, early yearsand also SEND provision. 


Councillor Philip Atkins referred to the number of local authorities who wereheading towards issuing Section 114 Notices due to the financial difficulties they were facing He added that, fortunately, Staffordshire was not in that position and that the Council managed its finances well; although there was a need for more funding from Central Government to meet the rising cost of Children’s Services.  Councillor Ward, Councillor Deaville and Councillor Loughborough-Rudd also referred to how well the Council managed its finances despite all the challenges it faced 


Councillor Alan White spoke about how the Council had restructured and transformed its services to ensure effective delivery He added that, although the Secretary of State recognisedmany of the challenges faced by local government, these were not addressed in the Autum Statement and there was still the need for the Council to continue its lobbying for additional resources. 


Good news for Stafford 

(Paragraph 8 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Pardesi spoke about public transport links and the issue regarding the current shortage of bus drivers. She also referred to the proposed improvements to Stafford Town Centre. 


Councillor Trowbridge also welcomed the the news that the borough council had been successful with its bid for £20m to help deliver proposals for Stafford. She also expressed her thanks to the MP for Stafford for her support in helping to secure the funding. 


Councillor Winnington spoke about the Handsacre Link that would eventually connect the HS2 to the existing west coast main line, enabling HS2 trains to stop at existing stations, including Stafford. 


Councillor Edgeller referred tothe site of the former Marks and Spencer store in Stafford and indicted that a developer had recently shown an interest in the site She added that she hoped that the Borough Council would pursue this further. Councillor Edgeller also referred to the need for better bus services to serve the town. 


Councillor Pert referred to Stafford Station Gateway and paid tribute to the officers and members involved in bringing forward the proposals He also referred to other recent investments in Stafford including the Stafford Western Access Route and the improvements to Victoria Park and the Shirehall. 


Councillor Philip White informed Members that the County Council was continuing towork in partnership with the Borough Council following the recent change in political administration He also added that the Council was in discussion with Central Government concerning support for bus services in the County. 


Investment in Highways 

(Paragraph 9 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Hudson welcomed the Government’s announcement that investments,totalling £186 million, would be coming to Staffordshire over an 11-year period He also stressed the need for investment in highway infrastructure across East Staffordshire including work to tackle potholes. 


Councillor Hussain spoke about the need to reduce waiting times for highway improvement schemes and Councillor Huckfield referred to the condition of Cemetery Road which served Whalley’s Quarry. 


Councillor Yates asked that additional funding be made available to improve footways and “safer routes to schools.”  


Councillor Cox referred to complaints about potholes and indicated that he was seeing a reduction in the number of issues reported.  He, together with Councillor Smith and Councillor Deaville, also paid tribute to the work of the local highway teams. 


Councillor Edgeller welcomed the start of the improvement works on the A34 at Radford Bank in Stafford. 


Several Members expressed their thanks to Trevour Mellor who had recently retired from his role as Community Highways Engagement Officer with the Authority. 


Councillor David Williams thanked Members for their comments He also spoke about the on-going trialling of new technologies. 


Longest Night 

(Paragraph 10 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins spoke about young people’s mental health and referred to the need for mental health support in every Middle and High School as some people were waiting for up to two years for support from child and adolescent mental health services (CHAMS).  Councillor Edgeller added that every school needed a “quiet place” and a dedicated person with knowledge about mental health for pupils to talk to.  She also paid tribute to all those persons working to support people with mental health issues. 


Several Members spoke about the excellent work of the Samaritans and Councillor Edgeller informed the Council that,on 22 December, hundreds of corporate and landmark buildings across the country would be illuminated in green in support of the Samaritans annual Longest Night appeal and she encourage people across the County to also take part.  Councillor Alan White expressed his thanks to Councillor Edgeller for all the work she does as the Council’s Mental Health Champion. 


Councillor McMahon referred to how volunteering could help to improve a person's mental health and wellbeing. 


Councillor Sutton informed the Council that many people who took their own lives sere not known to services and that it was incumbent on everyone to look after others in need.  Councillor Alan White also spoke about the importance of social interaction. 


Christmas Message 

(Paragraph 11 of the Statement)?   


On behalf of Labour Group on the Council, Councillor Hussain extended his best wishes for a Merry Christmas to his fellow Members,Council staff, partnershiporganisations and residents. 


Resolved – That the Statement of the Leader of the Council be received.

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