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 and an overview of decisions taken by the Cabinet (and Portfolio Holders) since the previous meeting of the Council.
The Leader also announced that Simon Tagg had written to him indicating that he wished to step down from his role as a Cabinet Support Member so as to concentrate on the launch of his new business. The Leader had therefore appointed Mark Deaville as Cabinet Support Member for Transport and Connected County with immediate effect.
The Leader also referred to the recent death of Stephen Sutton who had raised approximately £3.3M for the Teenage Cancer Trust and indicated that he had asked officers to investigate the possibility of creating a lasting legacy in recognition of Stephen’s achievements.
A50 Growth Corridor
(Paragraph 1.1 of the Statement)
Several Members spoke in support of the proposals and the benefits they would bring to the Uttoxeter area. In response to a question from Mr Deaville about the need for highway improvements between the A50 and Cheadle, Mr Atkins confirmed that the County Council was in discussion with stakeholders in relation to improvements to the A522 between the A50 and Cheadle.
Household Waste Recycling Centre Consultation
(Paragraph 1.2 of the Statement)
Mr Jackson indicated that if the Bemersley Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) was to close, this would have a detrimental impact on residents of Biddulph, Brown Edge and Endon who would need to travel to Stoke-on-Trent to use facilities provided by Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Ms Woodward added that, despite the consultation being put on hold, over 2,000 local residents had signed a petition opposing the possible closure of the Burntwood HWRC. She sought a commitment that neither the Bemersley nor the Burntwood sites would be closed during the term of the current political administration. In response, Mr Winnington indicated that it was not possible to make such a commitment at this stage
Mr Greatorex referred Members to the situation in the Tamworth area where there were cross boundary arrangements in place which enable residents to use a HWRC in Warwickshire.
Mr Atkins also referred to the recent opening of the W2R plant at Four Ashes and indicated that this new facility would save the County Council around £250M over the next 25 years.
Achieving Excellence for Young People
(Paragraph 2.1 of the Statement)
Several Members expressed their concerns in relation to the Achieving Excellence for Young People proposals and the potential impact they would have on the number of Youth Workers employed by the County Council. Ms Atkins enquired whether there was likely to be a gap between the County Council ceasing its youth provision and the voluntary sector providing suitable alternative provision. Ms Peaple enquired as to when Members would be consulted on the detailed proposals moving forward. In response, Mr Atkins stated that there would be a report back to Scrutiny by the end of October. Mr Sutton added that detailed work was now being carried out and that the necessary statutory consultations were taking place with those members of staff who were affected by the proposals. Mr Parry indicated that the proposals were not about the County Council withdrawing from youth provision; it was about responding to the needs of young people in a better way. He added that currently, around 90% of youth provision was provided by the voluntary sector. Mr Francis added that the proposals were about young people deciding what provision they wanted rather than the County Council dictating what would be provided. Mr Marshall also added that the proposals were about the County Council using its financial resources to “kick-start” new youth provision.
Achieving Excellence for Early Years
(Paragraph 2.2 of the Statement)
Mrs Rowlands enquired whether the statutory requirements for consultation had been met during the “engagement exercise” on the Achieving Excellence in Early Years proposals. Mrs Compton sought an assurance that the staff affected by the proposals would be kept informed. In response, Mr Lawrence indicated that there would be a formal consultation period once the proposals had been formulated but that, currently, there were very few staff in Children’s Centre who were directly employed by the County Council as most of the services were now commissioned.
Better Care Fund
(Paragraph 2.3 of the Statement)
In response to questions from Members in relation to the Better Care Fund, Mr Marshall indicated that this was about working with partners across the public sector to make the best use of the pooled budget of around £56m and would involve looking for more community based solutions. In response to a question from Mr Clarke concerning how the Police were often called upon to deal with issues involving individuals with mental health problems, Mr White indicated that the County Council was working in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council on the development of a mental health strategy which would be submitted to Cabinet for consideration in July.
Ofsted Inspection Report
(Paragraph 2.4 of the Statement)
Mr Sutton paid tribute to the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children Board and staff from Families First following the recent announcement that the service and Board had both received a “good” rating by Ofsted following their inspection in January/February 2014. Mr Atkins also paid tribute to the contribution that had been made by Mr Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Communities and Localism, and Richard Hancock, Head of Families First. Mr Lawrence added that, in recognition of the progress that had been made since the previous Ofsted Inspection, the Chairman of the County Council was to host an afternoon tea for representatives from the service and the Board.
Ms Wood referred to the recommendations contained in the Ofsted report and highlighted the need to take action to address the issue of excessive caseloads of the Independent Reviewing Officers.
RESOLVED – That the Statement of the Leader of the County Council be received.