Introduction from the City Director, David Sidaway
Stoke is on the up - this is a city undergoing a profound transformation - and we need a person with a proven track record of delivery to help us get there even quicker.
For too long Stoke-on-Trent has been coy about its huge talents, its massive sense of place and its proud people. But that’s all starting to change. We have completely revitalised and reinvigorated the city’s sense of self-confidence, purpose and direction.
There is exciting news on progress being made with regard to the health of the population in several priority areas. Fewer young people are taking up smoking than in the past and the percentage of adults who smoke has also fallen. Our children and young people are doing well at learning about the skills of growing and cooking food and a number of schools have recently won awards in the ‘Food for Life’ programme. The introduction of a ‘wayfinding’ scheme to promote walking and cycling in the city has been approved and we are now working on its implementation. However, we need to keep up the pace of work as there is still much to do. The generous, down to earth and friendly nature of the people of the six towns which make up Stoke-on-Trent is at the core of what makes this city special, and improving their health is a vital part of our future success.
Economy: The council has a long-term strategy focused on investment and growth. Against a difficult backdrop of funding reductions from government for local authorities, we are becoming more commercially focused, increasing our financial sustainability and better equipping us to provide the services that we know residents value.
This approach includes successful initiatives to encourage businesses to set up in the city and new homes to be built. It has meant we have been able to collect an extra £5m in business rates and council tax, and we are expecting to collect a further £6m over the next two years, £2m more than original projections.
Stoke-on-Trent is in the top 10 fastest growing economies in the UK outside of London; we have clear and detailed plans for developing brownfield and other land with new homes, which are well underway; and we’re delivering new jobs at the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and other sites across the city.
We are also developing a joint Local Plan with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council – a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set the blue print for how the city and wider area can be developed until 2033.
Employment rates are stable and unemployment rates have returned to pre-recession levels. However, deep health inequalities still exist locally. Life expectancy at birth for men is 76.6 years compared to 79.5 years for the England average and for women it is 80.9 years compared with 83.2 years across England. Life expectancy also varies considerably within Stoke-on-Trent, with a difference of 9.8 years in males and 6.9 years in females between those living in the least deprived and most deprived areas of the city.
Improving health: Cancer is Stoke-on-Trent’s biggest killer and we have higher rates than the England average of premature (under the age of 75) death from cancer. Detecting cancer early greatly improves survival rates. Although breast cancer screening rates are higher than the England average, we need more people in Stoke-on-Trent to come forward for screening for bowel and cervical cancer. In addition, more work needs to be undertaken to continue to encourage Stoke-on-Trent residents to see their GP at the earliest symptoms or signs of cancer. To do this they need to understand what the symptoms of cancer might be. Our health literacy work will be helping with this.
We also have higher rates of deaths from heart attacks and strokes than the England average. Fortunately these rates have dramatically reduced over the last decade. Our local GPs have been doing a good job with helping to improve our performance with regard to this.
People in Stoke-on-Trent are more likely to have received an NHS Health Check – 25.6% of people aged 40-74 years compared to 18.6% across England. These Heath Checks aim to identify risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol so they can be treated. In Stoke-on-Trent, 53% of patients with high blood pressure have been successfully treated to reduce their blood pressure to safer levels compared to only 45% across England.
Mental health and wellbeing is vital to a fulfilling life. The World Health Organisation defines it as “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” We have more to do on this issue. Although numbers are quite small, suicide rates across the city are significantly higher than England as a whole and people in general in Stoke-on-Trent have low scores on feeling worthwhile and satisfied. The need for improvement in mental health service provision is acknowledged across England and Stoke-on-Trent is no different. Support for children and young people has been enhanced by the development of an innovative on-line service. As part of our work on mental health and wellbeing we will also be looking at the issue of loneliness.
Children’s social care: We are passionate about and committed to supporting vulnerable people in our city. We have an increasing number of children in care, and this is placing pressures on our resources. We are investing in creating new special educational needs provision across the city to provide the tailored support for children to get an education. Our work to support young children develop language and communication skills is a national exemplar – Stoke Speaks Out continues to win awards for innovation and best practice. Stoke-on-Trent has received extra government funding to promote 30 hours free child care to support young families, and the city has been named by government as an Opportunity Area, which will see the council work with a range of partners to improve the life skills and opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Governance: The council is represented by 44 city councillors across 37 wards. The authority has a City Independent and Conservative administration and its next cycle of local elections is in May 2019. The council’s Cabinet meets monthly, and Full Council every six weeks. These meetings are streamed live and are also archived online, demonstrating local accountability and transparency in the democratic process.
With a confident and effective leadership team in place and aspirations to be a healthy city, this is an exciting time.
The city is also becoming the next big thing, with TripAdvisor ‘hall of fame’-rated museums, the Stoke Literary Festival, the British Ceramic Biennial and a host of top rate artistic events. In August 2018 Stoke-on-Trent is also hosting the iconic poppy sculpture to mark the centenary of the First World War.
You have recognised this city’s potential, now come and be part of #TeamStoke. It’s an exciting and truly unique place and we know you will enjoy being part of this success story #StokeIsOnTheUp.