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.
(Paragraph 1 of the Statement)
Mrs Woodward indicated that she had concerns around some of the MTFS proposals being put forward by the Cabinet and that, although she recognised that the need to make reductions in the Council’s expenditure was not of the Council’s making, she would be submitting some alternative proposals to the MTFS Working Group to make the case for changes before the final proposals were considered by Full Council in February 2019. In response, Mr Atkins referred to the Chancellors Autumn Statement including the announcement of additional funding for Health and Social Care. He also referred to the need for the Council to balance its budget and to the lobbying which was taking place with Central Government in relation to the Comprehensive Spending Review, Fairer Funding, and the need for an equitable split in the funding to County and District/Borough Councils. He also mentioned that the County Council had been accepted for the Business Rates Pilot and that this would provide some additional funding in 2019/20.
Pan Staffordshire Approach to Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health
(Paragraph 3 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins enquired as to what early intervention initiatives had been tried in Staffordshire Schools and what had been the outcome. In response, Mr Sutton indicated that the County Council was working closely with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the six Clinical Commissioning Groups in the County to develop a unified approach to tackling mental health and wellbeing. This approach would recognise that Children’s and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health was a priority, have a collaborative commissioning arrangement, ensure that all commissioning decisions are informed by a robust assessment and would be transparent about what local services were invested in. He also referred to the important roll which parents and carers could play in ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of young people in their care. He added that officers had engaged with a number of the County’s schools and that the learning from this would be rolled out. He also added that trailblazer applications under the Governments Green Paper had been submitted by the Council and its partners and that a decision on these was awaited.
Mrs Woodward referred to the call-in of the Cabinet’s decision on Pan Staffordshire Approach to Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health and asked that the Cabinet Member forward to all Members of the Corporate Review Committee the detailed information he said that he would supply. Both Mrs Woodward and Mr Clarke expressed concern that the work on this issue which had been undertaken by the All Party Member Group (APMG), and their recommendations thereon, was largely ignored, and that they hope that the Cabinet Member would address this issue in order that schools became central to the development of the strategy.
Mr Adams and Mr Wileman indicated that they welcomed the proposed approach to addressing mental health issues in young people and paid tribute to the staff involved in delivering the service. Mr Wilemen also enquired as to how the approach dovetailed with the trailblazers scheme, whether it would run across all districts and how the funding would be allocated.
Mr Philip White also paid tribute to the work going on in five schools in Tamworth to provide early help to young people in relation to mental health and wellbeing and that he hoped that other schools would follow suit.
Mr McMahon indicated that the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee was to invite the Cabinet Member back to the Committee, along with partners in the Health Sector, to look at this issue again in more detail.
Mrs Edgeller referred to the responsibilities of Members in relation to their role as Corporate Parents and she also encouraged them to find out what was happening in their local schools to help children with mental issues. She added that the County Council had also recently signed up to the Suicide Charter.
Mr Flunder and Mr Bryan Jones also referred to the work of the APMG and indicated that their review had concluded with 31 recommendations being made, eight of which had been incorporated in the strategy.
Mr Atkins responded by thanking Members for their contributions to the debate and undertook to take on board the comments which they had made.
(Paragraph 4 of the Statement)
Mr Colin Greatorex referred to the lobbying taking place to address the issue of funding care for an aging population and enquired as to whether this lobbying had been effective. Mr Dave Jones referred to the delay in publishing the adult social care Green Paper which had resulted in Councils being placed at financial risk and enquired as to whether it was likely to be published before Christmas. Mrs Woodward added that there was a need to continue to put pressure on Central Government with regard to finding a long-term solution to the issue of funding adult social care. In response, Mr Parry indicated that he did not consider lobbying to be a realistic strategy and what was needed was more time to reform local government. Mr Atkins added that there was a lot which could be achieved by working with partners on the prevention agenda. He also stressed the need for enhanced two-tier working rather than a structural reform and also for an adult debate on the funding of adult social care.
(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)
Mr Robinson indicated that he was pleased to hear the recent Government announcement that Councils were to receive additional funding towards highway maintenance and asked the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport as to whether she felt that the County Council was receiving its fair share of such funding in comparison with other local authorities. He also enquired as to whether local Members would have a say in how these additional monies were spent. In response, Mrs Fisher indicated that the additional funding was calculated on the basis to the total road length per Council and that she would give consideration to his request as to local members having a say in how these additional monies were spent.
Mrs Jessel and Mr Wilemen referred to the expenditure on highway maintenance and the recent improvements which they had seen to roads in East Staffordshire. They also referred to areas within the district where maintenance works were still required. Mr Smith commended the work of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport in addressing Members’ concerns and complaints on highway maintenance issues. He also spoke about the need for the County Council to work with District/Borough Councils regarding the provision of infrastructure to support the development of local housing schemes. In response, Mrs Fisher indicated that she was happy to work with local members to address highways issues within their area.
(Paragraph 6 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins stated that she very much welcomed the Leader’s call for an adult debate on social care but expressed concern at the current shortfall in the funding for such care in Staffordshire. She asked about the current level of deficit and whether the recent announcement of additional funding would address this. In response, Mr Alan White indicated that there was still a deficit and that this was a national issue, not just a local one, which required a sustainable solution.
Mr Adams spoke about the need to ensure that the money was spent wisely by, for example, enabling people to be cared for within their own homes rather than being taken into hospital. Mr Alan White added that a good example of the Council’s measures of success was the number of people the Council were enabling to be kept out of hospital. He indicated that the Council, and its partners in the health sector were in a much better position this year to address winter pressures that it had been in previous years and that delayed transfers of care were at a low level.
(Paragraph 8 of the Statement)
Mr Robinson praised the Cabinet Member for the Council’s swift response in arranging the transfer of care following concerns over the stability of Allied Healthcare and enquired as to whether other providers were likely to face similar financial difficulties. In response, Mr Alan White and Mr Deaville expressed their thanks to all those members of staff who had worked over the course of a weekend to ensure the smooth transition from Allied Healthcare to an alternative provider. Mr White also indicated that the Council did not have a crystal ball to enable them to see into the future with regard to the financial stability of those companies providing care.
Mrs Woodward also asked that the Councils thanks be extended to those other care agencies across the County who provide care for old and disabled residents within Staffordshire for the valuable work they do. She also spoke about the need to promote the role of those employed within the care sector in order that their work is more highly valued.
Jobs and Growth
(Paragraph 9 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins enquired as to whether the County Council had any contract with Interserve and whether the company’s collapse had any implications for jobs in Staffordshire. Mr Smith also made reference to the valuable contributions made by the Universities within Staffordshire in equipping people with the skills employers required. In response, Mr Atkins indicated that he agreed that it was important that the workforce was equipped with the right skills and he added that “digital” was the way forward and that the County Council was working closely with the Universities and colleges in this respect.
(Paragraph 10 of the Statement)
Mr Brookes welcomed the news that, in Staffordshire, the average full time weekly gross wage had increased to £551. He also paid tribute to JCB for the memorial they had created to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and he expressed the hope that the Town Council in Uttoxeter would find a suitable location for the memorial’s permanent display. He, along with Mr Deaville, also paid tribute to the residents of Uttoxeter for their forbearance during the construction works along the A50. Mr Clarke added that although he welcomed the news about the average full time weekly gross wage, it should be noted that there were still people employed on zero hour contracts or on low wages, many of whom had to resort to the use of foodbanks.
Mrs Jessel referred to recent developments in East Staffordshire including the recent opening of the John Taylor Free School and the Branston Locks development and the extension of High Speed Broadband to the village of Dunstall. In response, Mr Winnington thanked Mrs Jessel for her comments and indicated that 96% of properties in Staffordshire would be able to access Superfast Broadband by the end of the year.
Mr Sweeney referred to the opening of Castle House which provided residents of Newcastle-under-Lyme with a one stop shop of Children and Family services as well as the Library, Registrars, Trading Standards, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and Staffordshire Police.
Mr Robinson highlighted the recent investment at Kidsgrove Railway Station and paid tribute to those who were involved in the campaign to secure the necessary investment and also to officers from the County Council who had been involved in the negotiations with Network Rail.
Mr Sutton referred to the work undertaken at Four Ashes by the County Council, in partnership with South Staffordshire Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership, to enable Spanish automotive supplier Gestamp to relocate from its former site in Cannock and thus safeguarding jobs in the County.
Mr Snape highlighted a number of developments which had recently taken place in the Cannock Chase District including the commencement of work on the new Mill Green development which would create approximately 1,200 new jobs; government funding for the electrification of the railway line and improvements to rail services; the proposed new Poppyfield Primary Academy in Pye Green which is due to open its doors to nursery and reception children in September 2019; and the proposed redevelopment of the Power Station site in Rugeley. Mr Hewitt added that that the area was also in receipt of a £416,000 Lottery grant to be spent partly on working with community groups on improving health and wellbeing. Mr Bryan Jones also referred to the large housing developments taking place in Hednesford.
Mrs Trowbridge and Mr Parry referred to how Stafford was becoming the “engine house” for industry and technology, recognised around the world, with developments including Redhill.
Mr Atkins thanked Members for their comments and indicated that these showed the many achievements in the County despite the financial challenges currently facing the County Council. He also referred to the level of unemployment in the County, which was lower than both the national and regional rates; the important role played by the three Universities within the County; how having the right infrastructure in place was key to promoting economic growth.
RESOLVED – That the Statement of the Leader of the Council be received.