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.?? 


In moving consideration of the Statement, Councillor Alan White updated the Council on the following matter: 


Electoral Review of Staffordshire County Council: Further Limited Draft Recommendations  


The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has opened an additional public consultation in its review of Staffordshire County Council’s electoral division boundaries. The Commission is now undertaking a further limited consultation on proposals for Lichfield District. The Commission is satisfied with the evidence received for the rest of the County and is therefore not seeking further opinions and comments (submissions) on areas other than Lichfield District.  


The Commission would welcome submissions on the further draft recommendations by 12 March 2024. Their final recommendations for the whole of the council area will now be published on 14 May 2024.  


As the deadline for the consultation falls before the date of the next Council meeting (14th March), it was recommended that the Director for Corporate Services, in consultation with the County Councillors from Lichfield (as a collective) are given delegated authority to respond to the consultation on behalf of SCC.  


Older People Adult Social Care Commissioning Strategy 2024-2029 

(Paragraph 1 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins enquired as to how the Council intended to attract sufficient care staff in order tofulfil the aims of the Strategy without increasing rates of pay She also referred to the Council’s proposals to develop two new care homes in the south of the County and enquired whether there were any proposals for new care homes in the north of the County.  In response, Councillor Jessel indicated that the Council was working with care providers which had led to significant improvements in the market She also explained how the Council was working hard to improve the status of the care industry in order to attract more people into the sector.  With regard to the provision of care/nursing homes, Councillor Jessel indicated that a business case was being prepared and, in due course, would be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. 


Staffordshire Means Back to Business 

(Paragraph 2 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Flunder referred to the success of the recent Tourism and Hospitality Conference held at Alton Towers which had attracted over 100 businesses. 


Councillor Yates spoke about the need for more business units for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). 


Councillor Philip Atkins referred to theclaimant count rate in Staffordshire which continued to be one of the lowest in the West Midlands and was far lower than the average for the region; and that over the last year, the average earnings of the County’s residents had increased by over 12% compared to just 5% across the West Midlands Region and England as a whole.   


Councillor Smith informed the Council that Lichfield District Council had recently granted planning consent for 30EV charging points and 30 acres of hi-tech manufacturingwhich would bring high value jobs to the area He also spoke about the high cost of connecting electric vehicle charging stations to the National Grid. 


In responding to Members’ comments, Councillor Philip White spoke about the Council’s ongoing work to bring about improvements to the local economy including increasing the number of better paid jobs He also referred to the national recognition of the County’s tourism sector. 


Carbon Sequestration and Woodland Creation? 

(Paragraph 3 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Smith commended the report of the Working Group but indicated that there needed to be a wider plan for the County and, by way of an example, he indicated that the report did not refer to the value of hedgerows in capturing carbon.  Councillor Yates added that he supported the comments made by Councillor Smith and he also enquired as to whether the Council was aware of a “competition” relating to the creation of a new forrest.  He also enquired as to which other agencies the Council was engaging with regardingextending tree cover in the County Councillor yates also referred to how the authority could take a lead by, for example, planting trees on land which was not economically farmable in the Council’s Farms Estate.  In response, Councillor Tagg indicated that the Council worked closely with the National Forrest and also looked at opportunities for planting trees on Business Parks. 


Councillor Thompson and Councillor Taggextended their thanks to the Members who served on the working group and also to the officers who supported them. 


Councillor Francis spoke about the opportunities for tree planting as part of new housing developments but added that the cost of ongoing management of those areas was an issue which needed to be taken into consideration. Councillor David Williams added that the Council was trialling tree planting and wilding on highway verges but there were additional cost to be considered such as in maintenance and inspection. 


Councillor Winnington referred to the need to improve the electricity distribution infrastructure in the UK. 


Councillor Huckfield enquired as to the number of trees which had been planted in the County in recent years; and, along with Councillor McMahon, expressed the view that the planting of trees could help to improve air quality and public health.  In response, Councillor Tagg indicated that around 850 trees had been planted in the Silverdale area. 


Councillor Heath and Councillor Philip Atkins spoke about the implications of planting trees on agricultural land, particularly in relation to food production/food security. 


Natural Environment Strategy 

(Paragraph 4 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Tagg commended the Strategy to Members and also highlighted some of the case studies set out in the document. 


Councillor Alan White extended his thanks to Councillor Tagg for his hard work in bringing forward the Strategy. 


Here to Help - Progress Update 

(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Sutton and Councillor Wilson highlighted some of the Council’s activities as part of the Council’s support for local communities including the work of the Family Hubs, the Holiday Activity and Food Programme, the Warmer Homes Scheme,the Community Support Fund and the information advice and guidance available on the Council’s website. 


Ofsted Report? 

(Paragraph 7 of the Statement)? 


Councillor Loughborough-Rudd enquired as to the timeframe for addressing the recommendations in the Ofsted report; would those recommendations be dealt with in the order of priority; and,with regard to partnership working,would there be direct input from young people. 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins referred to Ofsted’s findings regarding the lack of effective partnership working and enquired as to what the Council intended to do to address this. 


In response, Councillor Suttonindicated that the Council accepted Ofsted’s findings and was fully committed to improving its services Plans were being put in place to address the findings in the report and would be overseen by the Children’s ImprovementBoard.  He added that, at no point did Ofsted raise any concerns about the safety of children in the Council’s care. 


Councillor Alan White commended the work of those staff working in Childrens’ Services who were involved in looking after those 5,000 children in the Council’s care. 


Highways Investment 

(Paragraph 8 of the Statement)?? 


Several Members commended the excellent work of their local highway teams and their swift response to issues raised.  Members also welcomed the additional investment in the County’s highway network.  


Branston Interchange Project 

(Paragraph 9 of the Statement)?? 


Councillor Jessel and Councillor Philip White spoke about the benefits arising from the Branston Interchange project including the infrastructure for new homes and employment development at Branston Locks. 


National Apprenticeship Week 

(Paragraph 10 of the Statement)?? 


Councillor Philip White highlighted the importance of apprenticeships and indicated that the county council had more than 100 apprentices covering 35 different subjects and a further 100 apprentices working in the County’s grant-maintained schools. 


Dignity in Care Awards 

(Paragraph 11 of the Statement)?? 


Councillor Loughborough-Rudd, Councillor Pardesi and Councillor Jessel welcomed the Awards and added that they were important in recognising the contributions made by those working in the care sector and also unpaid carers.  


Councillor Northcott indicated that, over the last ten years, in excess of 1,000 people had been nominated for the awards.  He, together with Councillor Jessel, asked Members to encouraged people to nominate individuals for the Award. 


Councillor Alan White paid tribute to Councillor Jessel for the contribution she had made whilst serving as the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Care and indicated that, following her recent announcement of her intention to retire from the post, Councillor Mike Wilcox had been appointed to lead the portfolio. 


Extra Support for Children in Schools 

(Paragraph 12 of the Statement)?? 


Councillor Hudson welcomed the increased support for early intervention which had been launched for children needing support in the classroom. 


Councillor Charlotte Atkins expressed her disappointment that, whilst some schools “stepped-up to the plate”, others did not want to be known for supporting pupils with SEND and enquired as to what the Council was doing to ensure that schools were meeting the needs of all oftheir pupils. 


Councillor Edgeller spoke about how early intervention was important in helping to address children's mental health issues. 


Councillor Francis referred to the excess demand for places at Marshlands Special School in Stafford and the need to expand the school. 


In responding to Members’ comments, Councillor Price spoke about the importance of children with SEND being supported in their local school where appropriate. 


Resolved (a) That the Statement of the Leader of the Council be received.?? 


(b) That the Director or Corporate Services, in consultation with the County Councillors from Lichfield (as a collective) are given delegated authority to respond to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s consultation on behalf of SCC.


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