Latest Action Grant deadline approaches

We really appreciate the amazing job that hundreds of groups, charities and organisations do every day across Derbyshire, providing opportunities and benefits for residents and their communities.

We want to support and champion our local communities wherever we can and our Action Grants scheme is a really positive way of doing just that.

As the deadline approaches for the latest round of applications, I’m urging people involved in community work – from youth clubs, friendship, social and sports clubs to environmental projects, schemes to tackle domestic abuse and support mental health – to apply.

We’ve awarded Action Grants to more than 460 groups so far so why not find out more and get that application in now.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The case for an East Midlands Strategic Alliance

The eye-watering lack of investment in infrastructure is something that we are all acutely aware of in the East Midlands. The diminishing political power and influence of local authorities in the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), following the recent government review, is a further symptom of that. In short, now is the time for local authority leaders in cities and counties to step up to the plate by providing co-ordinated political leadership.

We have seen the emergence of the East Midlands Development Corporation (EMDC) which is supporting three already well-developed projects. While no doubt adding value, this is woefully inadequate against the backdrop of years of significant under investment in this region. Essentially EMDC can be seen as a sop from Government to stem criticism levelled at it about lack of investment but it falls massively short of addressing the challenges that we face.

Just to underline this point, it seems astonishing to me that when the Department of Transport asked, via Transport for East Midlands and Midlands Connect, for the region to provide bids for 10 major road network transport projects we could only muster seven of which only one will be recommended for submission in the East Midlands. This is reflected in the fact that investment in transport in the East Midlands is 4.2% compared to 27.6% in London and 10.7% in the rest of the South East.

For too long, because of a degree of political parochialism, the region has been divided and conquered by successive governments that have their eyes on other priorities and prizes. The West Midlands Combined Authority and the Northern Powerhouse have become the focus for Government and the East Midlands risks slipping further behind if we do not get our act together.

What we need is drive and coordination to create a vision and opportunities for the region. It is time that county and city local authority leaders in the East Midlands come together and deliver what the region deserves – leadership, purpose and a united voice.

Celebrating Derbyshire’s fantastic carers

A helping hand at the right time can change someone’s life forever.

And there’s an army of people across Derbyshire who give up their time to support others.

That could be through volunteering, caring for someone, providing a young person with a loving family home or giving an older person or adult with disabilities the chance to lead an ordinary life.

Next week is Shared Lives Week – a chance to celebrate the crucial role that our Shared Lives carers play in doing just that.

Shared Lives can transform a life by giving older people and adults with disabilities and mental ill health the chance to share their lives with a family.

We currently have around 70 Shared Lives carers across Derbyshire doing a brilliant job – but we always need more so that we can offer that support to even more people.

We’ve launched a campaign to recruit more Shared Lives carers, and some of them are helping us to spread the word.

You can find out more and watch our amazing Shared Lives carers here:

It is by empowering people to support each other that we can become masters of our own destiny – creating resilient communities which can better support people to remain at home and support people to manage their own physical, mental health and well-being.

I’d like to thank everyone in Derbyshire who gives up their time to care for someone else. We know at times it isn’t easy, but you are making a real difference.

Thank you.

Unveiling the new Derbyshire Plan

Derbyshire County Council exists for one purpose only – to improve life in our great county.

I am proud of the support that our staff provide across the community. Whether that is maintaining roads, protecting our most vulnerable, delivering library services, supporting local business to grow or championing our great heritage.

I have to admit the job is getting harder because there is less money to spend which is one of the reasons why we have just published the Derbyshire Plan – our two-year vision for improving life in Derbyshire so that you know how every penny of your council tax is spent.

My commitment to you, as your Council Leader, is that you will not pay a penny more on council tax than you need to. We will do this by focusing our resources on the issues that matter to you the most: supporting people who are more vulnerable, improving our schools, maintaining our roads and creating jobs and prosperity. These things are the foundation of the Derbyshire Plan.

To become more efficient and effective we are changing the way the Council works. We are reducing red tape and becoming more enterprising in our approach. Often councils like Derbyshire have done things “to communities” – we are shifting the focus instead to working “with communities” because we do not have the resources to tackle every problem on our own, nor should we.  We are much more effective if we work with you as a team instead.

Please do have a look at the Derbyshire Plan and let me know what you think.

Unveiling our Derbyshire Climate and Carbon Reduction Manifesto

As the leader of a county council I am acutely aware of the need to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce waste and be greener in all that we do.

That’s why we’ve taken the important step of launching a Derbyshire Climate and Carbon Reduction Manifesto.

This Manifesto sets out how we will work to reduce our carbon footprint, cut waste and pollution, and be green in everything we do as a county council.

Some of the actions we’ve taken to put our own house in order are fairly small scale while others we’ve taken are having a much bigger impact.

Here I explain in more detail what we’re pledging and why it’s so important that everyone gets on board.

Read my climate change speech:

Council plan sets priorities for next few years

We’ve just agreed our updated Council Plan* which sets out the future direction of the authority and what we’ll all be working to achieve on behalf of our residents over the next two years and beyond.

We all know that Derbyshire is a fantastic place to live, work and visit, and working with our partners, our aim is to protect and nurture all the things we love about our county while striving to make life even better for all.

At the heart of our updated plan is ensuring we provide maximum value for money for the council tax you pay by delivering the most efficient and effective services we can.

You’ll know we have a lot less money to spend. In fact, we’ve had to reduce our spending by a third since 2010 and we’ve still got substantial savings to find. This is not stopping us from being ambitious for Derbyshire although success will be dependent on us working as a team with our communities.

Over the next two years we want to work with you in putting energy and resources into areas that really make a difference to life in Derbyshire.

We’ll be maintaining Derbyshire’s roads to the highest possible standard, supporting our schools to raise the achievement bar even higher, helping people who are more vulnerable to live and flourish in their communities and working to attract investment to the county, supporting growth and prosperity.

Our plans are ambitious, enterprising, strong and fair.

And we’ll be working hard to achieve all we have set out to do while making sure you don’t pay a penny more in council tax than you need to.

*The new Council Plan has been recommended by the council’s Cabinet for approval by Full Council at its meeting in May. If agreed, the updated version will be published on the council’s website at

Councillor Barry Lewis talks about his personal quest to combat type 2 diabetes

It’s Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week 2019 this week and I wanted to share with you my recent experience of this condition. 

Back in November I left a routine doctor’s appointment after an over 40s health-check feeling a bit glum.  Since the age of 41 (I’m now 48), I’ve been classified as pre-diabetic, but I was told I’d crossed the threshold into full-blown Type 2 diabetes.  I suspected I might be as I was showing classic symptoms – always feeling tired and getting up more frequently in the night to go to the loo. I left clutching my prescription for twice daily tablets – looking at a lifetime of the same if things didn’t change.

I resolved there and then to do something about it, and this meant losing weight. I weighed in at 242lbs (just over 17 stone) at this point – clearly a tad over the wrong side of the line of fat. I’ve always had issues with my weight, yo-yoing between quite portly and reasonably *ahem* trim throughout my adult life.

So how had I got here? I was still, or so I thought, reasonably active. However, life as a councillor and more recently county council leader had clearly had an impact.  The really active stuff I used to do such as maintaining my vineyards and orchard and country walking had been relegated, and replaced with lots of meetings and being relatively physically inactive.  Unhealthy lunches and snacking increased too.  I’d lost the necessary balance to maintain my health with the excuse that I was `too busy’.

In retrospect the problem ran even deeper than that.  I’d accepted being in the pre-diabetic range since my early 40s as my new norm and failed to address it.  Now, aged 48, I was a full on Type 2 diabetic.  I should have seen it coming as it had been a family scourge for decades; my uncles suffered it, my mum has it, my dad had it and now I had it.  While there is a genetic component it isn’t inevitable and I knew this was self-inflicted.

Even worse was knowing that I was placing a burden on an already strained NHS.  I was embarrassed, even ashamed, that I had impacted on the service through my own unwillingness to look after myself and that the NHS would pick up the pieces, and cost. 

There are about 200,000 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every year and complications can be devastating including losing your sight and limb amputations and a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks.  When I received my diagnosis the cost of prescribing for diabetes was more than £1bn – up by over £422 million in the last 10 years.  Factor in the cost of complications and diabetes costs the NHS over £10bn a year.

I took personal responsibility, decided to lose weight and do more exercise. 

For me to succeed I needed a weight loss plan to be simple and fit in with my life.  I rejected anything complicated or faddy and knew there was only one way – simply to eat and drink less and exercise more.  The bit in the middle was perhaps my most difficult challenge!

Sugar-free muesli for breakfast, a sandwich and crisps for lunch, then a sensible dinner became the routine. Two to three puddings a week but in a very small bowl, two scoops of ice cream is 150-200 calories – so not too bad.  I reduced my wine intake a bit too. And that was it.  Gone were the extra bags of crisps, the chocolate bars, biscuits, lattes and puddings.

Exercise-wise I’m back to doing more vineyard work, I do press-ups and dumbbell workouts three times a week and I’ve taken up fencing once a week. It’s great exercise can be quite cathartic in my role!

And the result? Since November I’ve lost nearly three stone and I’m still losing it. My last diabetes check revealed I was in remission and was now back in the normal range.  In about 7lbs I’ll be at my target weight and at my next diabetes appointment I’ll hopefully come off the tablets and lead a (new) normal life. 

Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be inevitable and I know that what I did won’t apply to everyone for various reasons but for those it could apply to I hope I have shown it doesn’t have to be complicated.

If you want to give it a try but want a bit of support, there’s loads of help and advice out there. The council’s healthy lifestyle service Live Life Better Derbyshire has a brilliant website and there’s free weight management and healthy eating support available.

The council also supports two NHS diabetes programmes, Healthier You which is aimed at people over 18 who have been identified as being at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and X-PERT, a six-week education programme for people who already have type 2 diabetes.

Find out more here: