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Petition against cuts in bus subsidies presented to Staffordshire Council

A petition of 1379 names against cuts in bus subsidies was presented to Staffordshire County Council by Councillor Charlotte Atkins on behalf of the Staffordshire Labour Group on Thursday October 12th.

Councillor Charlotte Atkins (Leek South Division) said,

“I am presenting this petition on behalf of all those who will be devastated by these cuts in bus subsidies – the most disadvantaged: the old, the young, the sick, the disabled and those on low incomes.

“Buses are a lifeline in a rural county like Staffordshire – providing access to employment, education, healthcare, shopping and leisure opportunities. These are all vital to the quality of people’s lives.

“Without these buses, we will be adding to the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation. That will add to the mental health problems which are already high within Staffordshire and have huge consequences for rural communities.

“These swingeing cuts – a 70% reduction to the bus subsidies’ budget – are being proposed without any alternatives being planned. Why isn’t the County Council exploring innovative solutions to address the transport needs of our most vulnerable citizens – working with taxi services, health organisations, supermarkets, leisure outlets, and communities to develop sustainable alternatives? This must be done in advance of the axe falling.

“For once, we need not just to consider the bottom line but the needs of our most vulnerable residents – whose voice is rarely heard. We need to focus on the human and social outcomes of these ill thought out plans.”

Talke and Red Street County Councillor, Kyle Robinson said,

“Many people in our local community will feel trapped if more bus routes are axed.  I will continue to raise concerns of those residents who are worried about the future of their local bus services.  Many residents in my division who use public transport are worried that they may not be able to reach Royal Stoke Hospital without having to use taxis or walk miles.  Perhaps it is time for the Government to consider renationalising bus companies before the whole system fails.”

Chesterton Borough Councillor and campaigner, Cllr Allison Gardner said,

“We have been campaigning and collecting signatures for our petition over the summer. These cuts have already resulted in bus companies removing routes altogether.  Audley have lost their Saturday bus service to Newcastle and the number 17 Hanley bus has been cut. Cuts to public transport means isolation of people who cannot afford cars or are unable to drive. This means our elderly, disabled, young and poor residents will be adversely affected – the very people we need to be supporting the most. They, and whole communities, will become increasingly isolated and their access to work, training, health services and shops will be reduced. In turn this will have a detrimental effect on our local economy as well as the health, well being and opportunities of our residents. This is a further example of the appalling cuts forced on local government by the Conservative government and it is time we all spoke up, whatever our political persuasion, and said enough!”

Staffordshire Mental Health Motion Wins Unanimous Support

Staffordshire County Council accepted the challenge of playing a crucial role in improving the mental health of everyone in our community following a motion from the Labour opposition group (below) at its Full Council meeting on May 25th. The motion was carried unanimously by the Council.

Moving the motion, Labour Opposition Leader Councillor Sue Woodward (Burntwood North Lichfield) said:

‘The Mental Health Challenge is a call for councils across the country to promote mental health in the terms set out in the motion. As councillors, leaders in our communities, we collectively and individually have a role in ensuring services are there for our residents, promoting mental health and parity of esteem with physical health and removing the stigma of mental health problems.

‘We must be proactive and I hope it won’t just be left to a mental health champion but all of us. One in four experience a mental health problem every year – about 15 members here in this council chamber; about 2000 residents in each County Council Division and I am mindful of staff too,’ said Councillor Woodward.

Supporting the motion, Labour Deputy Opposition Leader Councillor Charlotte Atkins (Leek South) said:

‘It is clear that we are nowhere near achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. Although half of all lifetime mental health problems emerge before the age of 14 years, we are not investing enough in early detection and treatment of mental health in schools – only 16 per cent of expenditure on child mental health services goes on early intervention. With local schools now making staff redundancies, mental health is often the first area to lose out.

‘There is also an alarming rise in young mental health patients treated far from home – nearly 70 per cent of child and adolescent admissions were out of area. So they are deprived of family support when they need it most. That situation would not be tolerated for physical illness – so much for parity of esteem!

‘The decision by North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to withdraw free NHS hearing aids last year demonstrates that even the CCG discounted the implications for mental health. To save a measly £110,000 a year, the CCG has jeopardised the mental well being of hundreds of elderly people denying them the social interaction that guards against isolation and depression. Yet they are responsible for commissioning all our health services’, said Councillor Atkins.

Also supporting the motion, Councillor Kyle Robinson (Talke and Red Street Newcastle) said:

‘I have seen how suicide has affected the community I represent. The problem is on the increase in Newcastle-under-Lyme and in other parts of Staffordshire. Men in the UK aged 20-49 are more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death. This is more than cancer, road accidents and even heart disease.

‘These figures are absolutely tragic and yet we fail to discuss this issue enough. Our County Council can do much more to reach out to our local communities and to make sure people have the information they need to access mental health services and support groups. We can all play a part in tackling mental health by sharing information and talking to each other. People must know they are not alone in their struggles.’ said Councillor Robinson.

Labour’s motion to Staffordshire County Council Full Council 25 May 2017

This council notes:

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second most common health condition worldwide by 2020.
  • Mental ill health costs some £105 billion each year in England alone.
  • People with a severe mental illness die up to 20 years younger than their peers in the UK.
  • There is often a circular relationship between mental health and issues such as housing, employment, family problems or debt.

This council believes:

  • As a local authority we have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in our community and tackling some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health.
  • Mental health should be a priority across all the local authority’s areas of responsibility, including housing, community safety and planning.
  • All councillors, whether members of the Executive or Scrutiny and in our community and casework roles, can play a positive role in championing mental health on an individual and strategic basis.

This council resolves:

  • To sign the Local Authorities’ Mental Health Challenge run by Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Providers Forum, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds.
  • We commit to appoint an elected member as ‘mental health champion’ across the council.
  • We will seek to identify a member of staff within the council to act as ‘lead officer’ for mental health.
  • The council will also:
  • Support positive mental health in our community, including in local schools, neighbourhoods and workplaces.
  • Work to reduce inequalities in mental health in our community.
  • Work with local partners to offer effective support for people with mental health needs.
  • Tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health in our community.
  • Proactively listen to people of all ages and backgrounds about what they need for better mental health.
  • Sign up to the Time to Change pledge

Local Councillors Secure £45K Footpath Upgrade

Butt Lane Councillors inspect footpath 216 before upgrade works begin.

Butt Lane Councillors inspect footpath 216 before upgrade works begin.

Local Labour councillors hail success after securing £45,000 to upgrade public footpath 216 in Butt Lane.  The footpath is accessed from West Avenue and runs behind the houses of Church Street, finally exiting onto Congleton Road adjacent to St. Saviours Primary School. The improvement works will be funded by a Public Right of Way contribution from Taylor Wimpey. Taylor Wimpey’s contribution was secured through a section 106 agreement with Newcastle Borough Council.

It is understood that the works will be completed by contractors appointed by Staffordshire County Council and not housing developer, Taylor Wimpey. The contractor will begin work on the surfacing of the footpath on Monday 16th January.  The path will be temporarily closed for the duration of the works. Residents are politely asked to use other routes until the works are completed.

Councillor Kyle Robinson said: “I welcome the news that this footpath will finally be brought up to a decent standard.  Back in 2013, Sylvia and I raised the alarm about the state the public footpath had been left in following the development of Bluebell Croft.  The footpath in question has been used for many years by local residents as a safer route to school and for recreational purposes.  I am pleased we have been listened to on this matter and finally this 106 agreement will deliver for local people.  It’s about time our local area gets the investment it deserves and we will fight for more.”

Councillor Sylvia Dymond added: “Many residents have been calling for an improvement to the footpath, including those that have moved onto the new estate.  Local people have endured two years of problems with fencing, building work and a muddy overgrown footpath so this news is well received.  At last we have a safer route for everyone to reach the local school, shops and to just enjoy a walk.”

Footpath 216 begins on West Avenue and leads all the way up to Congleton Road.

Footpath 216 begins on West Avenue and leads all the way up to Congleton Road.