IN the last week or so, Jaguar Land Rover has started recruiting for its new engine manufacturing centre at i54 in South Staffordshire. I welcome the involvement of both Staffordshire County Council and South Staffordshire Council with JLR in a training programme for local people. Details of jobs available and the apprenticeship programme (applications for which close on January 31) can be found at www.jaguarlandrovercareers.com.
Last week, too, the Ministry of Defence announced the contract to build 340 homes for servicemen and women at MOD Stafford. The arrival of the troops in 2015, from 16 Signal Regiment and 1 Armoured Division Signal Regiment, will mean that Stafford becomes one of the Army's seven major bases in the United Kingdom.
With the prospect of another JCB factory at Uttoxeter, business parks at Redhill and Weston Road and further development in Stafford Town centre, we are seeing a welcome increase in long-term investment in Stafford and Staffordshire as a whole.
There are significant challenges too. In the coming days, Monitor will pass its recommendations for the long-term future of Stafford and Cannock hospitals to the Secretary of State for Health for his decision. I will meet him to continue to make the case for the paediatric, maternity and critical care services which we consider vital for Stafford.
Staffordshire University will also shortly be deciding on the future of its campus in Stafford. Together with local businesses and the councils, I have urged the university to recognise both the opportunities which Stafford brings as well as its importance to the whole area.
The new year also brings many challenges nationally. The Government's long-term plan for economic recovery is now resulting in growth and a lower budget deficit. That growth must benefit all, not just part of our society. The recovery too needs to be based – as we are beginning to see in Staffordshire – on productive investment, not personal debt and increasing house prices.