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

Minutes:

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 Charlotte Atkins referred to the Government’s decision to cease funding Local Enterprise Partnerships from April and enquired as to whether the transfer of their functions to local council’scame with any additional resources.   

 

Councillor Hood referred to Staffordshire’s excellent tourism offer with the large number and diversity of visitor attractionsavailable across the County She did however express concern in relation to public transport connectivity to those attractions and asked that this issue be looked into further.  In response, Councillor Alan White indicatedthat the Council had a bus service improvement plan in place and was also working on a local transport plan. 

 

Councillor Yatesspoke about the on-going lobbying activity in respect of the Fifty500 corridor and asked that the County Council engage fully with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council on this matter, particularly in respect of the development of the Local Transport Plan.   In response, Councillor Deaville referred to the importance of the Fifty500 corridor project and he, together with Councillor Alan White, confirmed that the County Council would work with the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to ensure that the Local Transport Plan provided for towns and villages to have appropriate highway links to access the corridor.  Councillor Hudson also spoke about the importance of the Fifty500 corridor and extended his thanks to his local Member of Parliament for her support in moving the project forward. 

 

Councillor Philip Atkins and Councillor Winnington referred to the important role played by the County Council, working with other organisations such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, in the delivery of major infrastructure projects such as the Branston Locks Interchange, i54 and the Stafford Western Access Road. 

 

Councillor Hussain asked what more the County Council could do to help support those families on low incomes.  In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that the claimant rate for Universal Credit in Staffordshire was lower than both the regional and national averages He added that there were as many vacant jobs in the County as there were people claiming Job Seekers Allowance and that the Council continued to work hard to create well paid employment opportunities, but this did not mean to say that it could not do more. Councillor Alan White indicated that the Leaders’ Board had also set up a work stream on tackling inequalities. 

 

Councillor Smith commended the work of Local Enterprise Partnerships but indicated that it was right that their work was now to be incorporated into local councils He added that it was important that local councils set up appropriate communication channels with the business sector to address their needs.   

 

Homes for Children in our Care 

(Paragraph 2 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Pardesi and Councillor Edgeller stated that they welcomed the Council’s decision to invest in six internal homes to disrupt the market and provide a home for the County’s children with the most complexneeds. Councillor Sutton thanked the Members for their comments and indicated that the new homes would give the council more flexibility, would ensure that the children placed there were closer to their families and would provide placements at a more realistic cost. 

 

Green Solutions - SCC Delivery of the Pilot Business Energy Advice Service? 

(Paragraph 3 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Philip White indicated that he welcomed the Council’s decision to become the Primary Delivery Partner for the Stoke and Staffordshire region, to deliver Energy Assessments and Grants on behalf of the Pilot Business Energy Advice Service (BEAS) programme in the Stoke and Staffordshire region. The scheme would allow the Council to support 300 businesses with energy advice and £2M of grants to make improvements He also asked Members to contact him if they were aware of any businesses which would benefit from the scheme. 

 

House Waste Recycling Centres - Equipment Replacement Programme? 

(Paragraph 4 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Tagg informed Members of the proposals to procure 11 new wheeled excavators (JCBs) for the Household Waste Recycling Centre equipment renewal programme. 

 

Equalities, Diversity & Inclusion - progress update? 

(Paragraph 7 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Hussain spoke about racism and how it should have no place in society He also spoke about the “disability pay gap and enquired whether it was proposed to undertake a survey to assess its extent in Staffordshire Councillor Hussain added that he was proud of this Council and its ongoing work to address inequalities In response, Councillor Alan White indicated his condemnation of racism in any form and added that it was through dialogue that problems were solved. 

 

Procurement of Gas Supplies 

(Paragraph 8 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Smith enquired as to whether it was possible for the Council to quantify its reductions in energy use as a result of its “green” policies Councillor Yates spoke about instability in energy markets and its impact on businesses He also spoke about the importance of investment in carbon reduction In response, Councillor Deaville referred to measures the Council had taken in relation to carbon reduction including updating street lighting with LED bulbs. 

 

Local Transport Fund 

(Paragraph 10 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Edgeller referred to the traffic congestion in Stafford particularly when there was a closure of the M6 motorway between junctions 12 and 14 and indicated that National Highways needed to find a solution to address these issues In response, Councillor David Williams indicated that, despite being notified of the roadworks on the A449 in Stafford, National Highways had failed to utilise appropriate diversion routes when the M6 was closed He added that he had asked officers to take up this matter with National Highways. 

 

Councillor Charlotte Atkins enquired as to how the Local Transport Fund monies would be allocated She also expressed concern that only one month had been allocated for consultation on the Local Transport Plan. In response, Councillor David Williams indicated that,although it was aware of the allocations under the Fund for the next two years, the Council was waiting to hear as to how much it was to be allocated in future years. 

 

Councillor Winnington referred to the importance of the Handsacre Link to connect Stafford with HS2 He, together with Councillor Philip Atkins, also spoke about the need to improve Stafford Railway Station and public transport links. 

 

Councillor Smith indicated that he hoped that some of the Local Transport Fund monies would be allocated to address the problem of “rat-running” in his Division. Councillor Cox referred to plans to upgrade Woodend Road to an “A” road and his hope that some of the Local Transport Fund monies could be used to complete the works Councillor Yates spoke about the need to think about other road users, not just cars, and also measures to tackle congestion outside schools, when allocating the fund.  In response, Councillor Alan White indicated that the funding would not be sufficient to meet all of the proposals being put forward and that there would be a need to prioritise those schemes which were the most beneficial for the County. 

 

Councillor Philip White referred to the recent visit by Jeremy Quin MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, to view the Branston Interchange project which had been funded jointly by the Council and the private sector.  He also spoke about how the Council was in discussion with Government Ministers on other major infrastructure projects. 

 

Councillor McMahon spoke about the link between the environment and public health, for example, through reducing pollution He, together with Councillor Alan White, also referred to the need for a change in culture to reduce car usage.    

 

Walleys Quarry 

(Paragraph 11 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Huckfield referred to the ongoing issues at Walleys Quarry and the lack of an adequate response from the Environment Agency He also asked that people write to the Minister to insist that the site is closed Councillor Tagg indicated that he fully supported Councillor Huckfieldin this matter and alsoexpressed the view that a public inquiry should be held into the failure to address the issues at the quarry.   He added that the site was due to cease operating in 2026 but that it was the view of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Counciland local residentsthat this should be brought forward. 

 

In response, Councillor Alan White expressed the opinion that it was a disgrace that the Environment Agency had not responded to the pleas for help to tackle the issues at the Quarry; and that the County Council would continue to support local residents. 

 

Foster Carer Awards 

(Paragraph 12 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Edgeller spoke about the importance of fostering and asked that anyone who was interested in fostering should come forward Councillor Sutton also asked Members that, if they knew any foster carers who should be considered for the Foster Carer Awards, would they please nominate them.  

 

Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme 

(Paragraph 13 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Hood expressed her support for the programme but indicated that, unfortunately, some young people who had been allocated a place did not turn up She added that there needed to be some way of having a cancellation register so that places were not wasted and could be offered to those who had just failed the eligibility criteria for attending the programme In response, Councillor Sutton indicated that the criteria for attending the programme was very strict and places could only be offered to those in receipt of free school meals.  He added that almost 200,000 places had been provided since the programme started in 2021 He also encouraged his fellow Members to promote the programme in their local communities. 

 

School Places 

(Paragraph 14 of the Statement) 

 

Councillor Cox extended his congratulations to those members of staff dealing with school admissions following the recent announcement that nine out of ten parents were being allocated their first choice secondary school in Staffordshire.  He also spoke about the decision of The HartSchool in Rugeley to reduce the number of places at the school and the detrimental impact this would have on the allocation of first choice places.  In response, Councillor Sutherland and Councillor Priceindicated that The Hart School were offering as many places as they could and the difficulties with provision in the Rugeley area would be resolved when the new all-through school opened.Councillor Price also spoke about the Schools Capital Programme which ensured that sufficient school places were available across the County and provided for the building of new schools and improvements to existing ones. 

 

Councillor Hudson indicated that he wanted to dismiss the false claims which were circulating in relation to the insufficiency of school place in Uttoxeter due to the increase in housing development He added that the Council had taken housing growth into consideration when planning future school place provision. 

 

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

Supporting documents: