Andy Stewart is Chairman of the Personnel Committee. He has many years of experience as a Nottinghamshire County Councillor. He represented the Southwell No.2 (Sutton on Trent to Bilsthorpe area) division 1974-83 and was Vice-Chairman of the Schools Committee for many years.
He became the first Member of Parliament for Sherwood in 1983 and served until 1992. He then returned to Nottinghamshire County Council to serve the Southwell division 2003-05 and was re-elected in 2005 to represent the newly created Farnsfield & Lowdham seat, which he successfully defended in June 2009.
Andy was born near Glasgow and educated at Strathaven Academy and the West of Scotland Agricultural College. He married in 1961 and then moved to his arable farm in Caunton in Nottinghamshire, which he still owns and runs with his wife Louise. They have one son, Jimmy, who lives in New York and a daughter, Marie Louise, who works in Mansfield.
In addition to his County Council duties, Andy is President of the Nottinghamshire Association of Local Councils and was Chairman of the National Landbased Training Organisation (LANTRA) 1992-2003. He is also Chairman of the Adjudication Committee for the local Quality Parish & Town Council Scheme in Nottinghamshire.
Since taking on his Cabinet role, Andy has very little spare time but is associated with a number of football, rugby and cricket clubs.
He is available to meet constituents at any mutually convenient time at a suitable venue. His contact details are displayed on the left of this page.
Andy's latest Councillors' Divisional Fund awards...
Each Nottinghamshire County Councillor now has an annual fund of £10,000 to support worthy initiatives in the division they represent. The Councillors' Divisional Fund aims to make use of each councillor's 'grass roots' knowledge to identify projects, events, people and clubs that work hard to benefit and promote their local area, but often lack access to resources. Even a small amount of funding can sometimes make a huge difference.
If you know of a deserving initiative in the Farnsfield & Lowdham division that might be eligible to receive a CDF grant, please contact me. You can click the following link to read the eligibility guidance criteria.
Follow this link to the Councillors' Divisional Fund web page to see some of the latest projects I have been able to support.
Andy's latest news...
Council tax frozen for the fourth consecutive year
At the Nottinghamshire County Council budget meeting on 28th February 2013, I joined my Conservative colleagues in voting to freeze county council tax for a fourth consecutive year.
In the 2013/14 financial year, Nottinghamshire County Council will be investing: -
an extra £13.3 million in services to children and young people;
an extra £17.9 million in adult social care;
an extra £3 million on the county’s highways;
an extra £500,000 for a Youth Employment Strategy; and
an extra £700,000 for our ‘Olympic Legacy’ sports development fund.
This followed our ‘Big Budget Conversation’ consultation process, in which 65% of Nottinghamshire respondents supported a council tax freeze, with only 21% against. Further information on the results of the Big Budget Conversation can be found in Appendix A to the budget report.
Nottinghamshire County Council is now spending over £40 million more on services to vulnerable adults than it was four years ago, and over £35 million more on services to vulnerable children.
Visits to local businesses
Nottinghamshire County Council is sounding out businesses on its economic development plans and proposals to stimulate growth and jobs. Recently I was one of a delegation of committee chairmen and council officers, led by Councillor Kay Cutts, to visit the award winning Southwell-based business, Advanex Europe.
Advanex specialises in design and manufacture of metal and plastic components, springs and assemblies to sectors as diverse as medical, pharmaceutical, aerospace, electronics and agricultural engineering manufacturers. The meeting and tour was the latest of a series of visits to companies throughout the county to talk to local businesses about the issues facing them, local growth plans and how the Council can provide support.
Senior Councillors have made twelve formal visits to Nottinghamshire firms in the last two years, including Laing O'Rourke (Worksop), Alliance Boots (Beeston), Abacus Lighting (Sutton-in-Ashfield), Synseal (Huthwaite), British Sugar (Newark), Hardstaffs (Gotham) and British Geological Survey (Keyworth).
There's no substitute for getting out there and seeing how our businesses are doing on the ground. Often there are actions the County Council can take which make a huge difference to businesses and their employees - from small things like tweaking a bus route or trading standards advice to major infrastructure projects such as improving the A453 and faster broadband.
Karl Sirrell, Regional Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses and Mark Chivers, Director of Nottinghamshire Enterprise Zone (Alliance Boots) recently became co-opted members of the County Council's Economic Development Committee. And businesses from throughout the county were involved in the production of Nottinghamshire's first Growth Plan, which is out for consultation until 7 December. It can be viewed at: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/growthplan
Robin Hood Festival is a success
Thank you to everyone who visited the 28th Robin Hood Festival and helped to make it such a success. Crowds flocked to Sherwood Forest despite the sometimes inclement weather. Some photos from the Festival are posted on Facebook so please take a look at www.facebook.com/robinhoodfestival. The Nottingham Post also came along and had a great time - read what they had to say and view their gallery of photos.
If you enjoyed the Festival and are interested in finding out about more Robin Hood-related events being held in the county then please visit www.experiencenottinghamshire.com/robin-hood for details.
Secondary school admissions
The application process for children transferring from primary schools to secondary schools across the county in September 2013 is under way. Letters from Nottinghamshire County Council setting out the procedure for applying, key dates for noting and their child’s unique ID number are in the process of being sent out to parents and carers across Nottinghamshire.
Parents and carers can now start applying for a secondary school place and the Council's committee chairman for children and young people’s services, Councillor Philip Owen, is urging as many as possible to apply online at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/admissions.
The closing date for applications is Wednesday, 31st October 2012. For more information about the application process, schools, the number of places available or how places are allocated, please visit the website at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/admissions or call 01623 433499.
Work complete on Bleasby Village Green
Bleasby’s oldest residents Mrs Jesse Phillips and Mrs Irene Cox were on hand to unveil a new interpretation board on the village green. The board details the history of the Glebe Field in Gypsy Lane and features a reconstruction drawing showing how the site may have looked in the 1660s.
The interpretation board signals the completion of work on the village green that has seen a number of improvements funded by Nottinghamshire County Council’s Local Improvement Scheme.
Other projects at Glebe Field have included planting a community orchard, hedge and wildflower planting, installing seats and benches including special animal benches for children, improving access and an archaeological dig which unearthed a clay pipe and pottery dating back to the 1800s.
As the local county councillor I was pleased to sign off the LIS application. It is a wonderful space for the people of Bleasby to come together to celebrate events and catch up with each other. When the trees, hedges and wildflowers come into bloom the site will be a great meeting place for families young and old.
Quality school catering
I'm pleased to report that Nottinghamshire County Council has been recognised nationally for its outstanding contribution to schools’ catering across the county. It picked up the Local Authority Catering Association’s (LACA) top prize last week as Catering Business of the Year 2012.
This is much-deserved recognition for our school meals service which has improved performance in so many areas in spite of a backdrop of increased financial pressures, having to reduce costs by £1m, a review of how we deliver services to schools, staff reductions and a freeze on pay and conditions.
My personal commitment to parents was that we didn’t increase the selling price of school meals – they are still just £2 a day. But at the same time, I was conscious of increasing food prices. This year I’m glad to see that all these and more targets have been achieved including an increase in the take-up of school meals across the county.
Currently 272 of the county’s 285 primary and 30 of the 45 secondary schools use the Council’s school meals service with meal sales up nearly nine per cent in 2011/12 on the previous year.
Factors which helped shape the judges’ decision included originality, an imaginative approach and actively involving the staff in the successful development of the service and introduction of change.
Council adopts a committee system
With approval at the Council’s Annual General Meeting on 17th May 2012, Nottinghamshire County Council exercised its new power under the Localism Act 2011 to adopt a committee system of decision-making. This replaces the Leader and Cabinet model adopted under the Local Government Act 2000.
The rationale for a committee system is that it is the most democratic and transparent form of governance. It ensures all 67 democratically elected Councillors are able to fully participate in decision-making and shaping the policy of the Council. It ensures greater transparency in that all reports are publicly available prior to any decision being made, and most decision-making meetings are held in public.
Reports were taken to the Full Council meetings in January and March, with final approval being given, as stated above, in May.
Orchard planted in Bleasby
A community orchard has been planted as part of the project to create a village green in the Bleasby. The project in Gypsy Lane, adjacent to the village church, will see Glebe Field become an area where the community can get together for special events and celebrations. With my support as the local councillor, Nottinghamshire County Council's Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) contributed £10,000 to the project.
The area had already undergone an archaeological dig which uncovered a number of interesting finds including building rubble and roof tiles from a 17th Century farmhouse and clay pipes and pottery fragments dating back to the 1800s.
The orchard planting was carried out under the guidance of local horticultural expert Berg Kinsey who sought advice from specialist growers and local nurseries. She identified a range of fruit tree varieties including medlar, damson, cherry, cobnut and a number of traditional desert apple trees such as Radford Beauty and Herrings Pippin. I was pleased to help plant a number of trees, joined by local residents and the Cabinet Member for Environment & Sustainability, Councillor Richard Butler.
A village green is a wonderful asset for any village as it brings the whole community together. The people of Bleasby have really got behind this project and they are looking forward to using it for village events and bigger celebrations like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Oxton play area
A new £43,000 play area is now open in Oxton. The project, funded by Nottinghamshire County Council’s Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) and WREN, was in response to a demand from local families for better and more up-to-date play facilities. The new facilities are situated on a previously under-used recreation ground behind the village hall and have replaced the worn out 1980s play equipment.
The village had seen a significant increase in the number of young children in recent years and as a result residents were crying out for recreational facilities. The vision was to provide robust, well-designed and aesthetically suitable facilities for a wide range of ages and abilities and I’m delighted this has been achieved. The play facilities include a wooden adventure trail, zip wire, climbing frames and boat swing.
Parents now have a wonderful play area to take their children and know that they are in a safe and secure environment. It is a great example of everyone working together for the benefit of the whole community.
Council tax frozen again in 2012/13
At the Nottinghamshire County Council budget meeting on 23rd February it was agreed to freeze county council tax for a third consecutive year. With public finances under strain across the country, the council has saved £87 million so far, £44 million of which has been reinvested directly into frontline services. In the coming financial year we will spend: -
- £2.8 million more safeguarding children;
- £5.2 million more on care for older people;
- £2.7 million more on adults with mental health & learning disabilities;
- £1.4 million more on adults with physical disabilities; and
- £1 million more to support young carers.
We are also committed to invest £289 million in capital over three years on:-
- Improving school buildings;
- Modernising day centres;
- New youth clubs;
- Improving libraries;
- Improved broadband services;
- Improved roads and pathways;
- New and improved bus stations.
Councillor Reg Adair is the council's Cabinet Member for Finance & Property. In his speech presenting the budget, he outlined the results of the council's budget consultation. In response to public feedback, we are: -
- providing additional library opening hours at 15 locations across the county;
- holding Meals at Home charges at £3.95 for 2012/13; and
- not increasing charges for Blue Badge holders in 2012/13, unlike many other local authorities.
Success! The A453 gets the green light!
I am absolutely delighted by the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government is fast-tracking the widening of the A453. This is the best Christmas gift that businesses and residents in Nottinghamshire could have, bringing a £540m boost to the East Midlands economy.
In May this year, Nottinghamshire County Council pledged £20m towards the scheme if it was bought forward. Since that pledge was made, the campaign to widen the road has garnered support from the local business community and other local councils, including a pledge of £500,000 towards the scheme from Rushcliffe Borough Council in October.
The A453 has been on the Council’s wishlist since the 1970s. At last it is going to happen and I am thrilled for local businesses and commuters alike. I want to particularly thank East Midlands Airport, Boots, RH Freight, Hardstaffs, the Nottingham Post newspaper and partner authorities for their support in this campaign.
In the five years up to October 2010, there were 185 accidents involving personal injury on just the Nottinghamshire part of the A453. The Nottinghamshire section of the road is the second most congested part of the national road network after a short section of the M25. This congestion has been costing larger businesses as much as £100,000 a year because of increased fuel usage, difficulty reaching customers, abandoned journeys and accident costs.
Finally, we can look forward to smoother and safer journeys on this vital road link through Nottinghamshire from the M1 and I am immensely pleased that the Government has listened to our determined campaign.
More Nottinghamshire children eating healthy school meals
As Cabinet Member for Personnel & Performance I am pleased to report that the number of children eating healthy school meals in Nottinghamshire has climbed for the 3rd year in a row – with more than 34,000 children now having a school lunch every day. News also out from recent research suggests the County Council’s policy to buy local food has injected £1.6 million into the local economy.
This is obviously fantastic news for parents across Nottinghamshire and is testament to the high quality of school meals. I am equally delighted with the news that the local economy is benefiting from our new approach.
New figures, published by the School Food Trust and the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), show that nationally an average of 44.1 per cent of children in primary schools and 37.6 per cent of pupils in secondary school opted for school meals in the 2010-11 year, up from 41.4 and 35.8 per cent respectively in the previous year.
Figures in Nottinghamshire are above the regional average with 41.6% of primary school pupils and 31.2% of secondary school pupils having a school meal.
This means that:-
- Around 1,300 more children in Nottinghamshire had healthy school meals last year;
- More than 33,000 children in Nottinghamshire now eat a school meal every day;
- The equivalent of almost 6.7 million healthy school lunches were served up last year in the 93% of schools to which the County Council supplies a service.
If parents are thinking about signing up for school meals from September it's also worth noting that research shows that school meals not only have a big impact on children’s health but it also helps them to concentrate and succeed in school.
£2.5 million boost for Supporting People
Despite local budget pressures and a reduced grant from central Government, Nottinghamshire County Council has invested an extra £2.5 million in its Supporting People programme.
Supporting People is a national programme that provides housing related support to help vulnerable people live independently. It will see its Government grant in Nottinghamshire reduced to £17.6 million this year, threatening the County Council’s previous year’s Supporting People spend of £22.5 million.
However, thanks to a new £1.5 million investment from the local NHS, plus a further £1 million diverted from the County Council budget, the Government’s allocation has been given a vital boost in Nottinghamshire. This limits the reduction in the County’s Supporting People budget to just over 10%, from £22.5 million to £20.11 million. The restricted budget reduction has also been made possible by the County Council’s decision early this year, following public consultation, to keep its savings on Supporting People to £10 million over the next three years rather than two higher reduction options of £12.5 million and £15 million.
These funding measures support feedback gained from a second, two-month public consultation on Supporting People services this year (in Feb/March), to form new proposals which went before Full Council on 30th June 2011. These proposals ensure that:-
- Most accommodation based services continue to be funded, albeit at reduced levels;
- ‘Floating support’ services, which offer support to people in their own homes, will be delivered consistently across issues of homelessness prevention and offender, drug and alcohol, gypsy and traveller and young people’s services;
- Mental health services are reviewed and delivered more efficiently;
- Young people’s services are reviewed for greater efficiency;
- Community alarm and warden services for older people are replaced with a new short term service targeted at helping vulnerable people to remain independent in their own homes.
We’ve talked to those who use the services, to our District Council partners, to project providers and voluntary and community groups, including church leaders, to find ways to make savings through efficiencies. We will target the money at front line services that meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need.
Nottinghamshire was successful in securing Government money under Supporting People when the programme first started eight years ago but we’ve seen this central funding steadily fall by nearly £11 million since that time. We believe that after the £10 million savings have been made, the level of funding in Nottinghamshire for these services will still compare well with other Council areas.