#DangerousA40

 

Anyone who drives along the A40 regularly in the Cotswolds will know that at times it can be a dangerous experience.

Laura Watts and Paul Hodgkinson are campaigning for a safer A40

Laura Watts and Paul Hodgkinson are campaigning for a safer A40

The well-used highway which connects Cheltenham and Oxford has a high accident record. Recently, there was a fatal crash near Northleach.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson and local campaigner Laura Watts are calling on Gloucestershire Highways to consider solutions to make the road safer.

Paul says: “You see drivers checking their phones in turnings, and cars overtaking at junctions. This dangerous driving has led to numerous accidents.”

Is the lack of dual carriageway on the A40 in either direction to blame? Or is it that drivers need have a better understanding about the dangers of this particular stretch of road?”

Laura Watts lives with her family in Aldsworth and uses the road every day:

“How do we make this road safe? Better road markings and improved signage at junctions? Or maybe orange signs like you have in Oxfordshire announcing the number of casualties in so many years?”

We are keen to hear your views on the A40. Please get in touch or follow our campaign on social media using #DangerousA40.

 

Bring on Le Tour Cotswolds!

Two leading county figures are calling for a Cotswolds stage in a future Tour De France.

Le Tour Cotswolds

With the country gripped by cycling fever as the famous race winds its way around Yorkshire, a bold bid could mean we see the same scenes in Gloucestershire soon.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has joined forces with Lib Dem Leader in the Cotswolds Paul Hodgkinson in writing to Tour organisers. They are inviting cycling bosses to consider having a Cotswolds leg of the Tour in the next few years.

Cllr Hodgkinson, would-be MP for the Cotswolds and a keen cyclist, says the area’s unique scenery would provide a perfect backdrop to the race:

“My vision is for the Tour to start in Chipping Campden, racing down the Fosse Way through Moreton, Stow and Bourton before going through the historic towns of Northleach and Cirencester. Moving on to Tetbury and the hills of Minchinhampton what a superb advert for the Cotswolds this would be.

“The potential for tourist business is enormous. Shops in Yorkshire have already seen takings going through the roof whilst 1.5 million people lined the route. There’s no reason why we can’t replicate and better what is happening so successfully in Yorkshire right now.”

Mr Horwood feels Cheltenham would be a fantastic location to end the race:

“The Promenade lends itself to a great sprint to the finish line. Can you imagine the boost to the town it would give? The TV images would provide a real show case for the area and be a great event for us all to enjoy.

“With 3 billion TV viewers tuning in it could give the county a tremendous boost and really show off its character.”

In the letter to Tour organisers, the two men will invite them to see the area for themselves and understand the benefits of ‘Le Tour Cotswolds’.

Call for County Council to boost apprenticeships

On the back of a record number of apprenticeships across Gloucestershire, the County Council is being urged to go one step further.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with successful Cirencester apprentice Jordan McKenna

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with successful Cirencester apprentice Jordan McKenna

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton and Northleach) is recommending that the Council should create a cross-party task force, which would work with businesses in the county encouraging them to recruit more apprentices.

The council itself recruited 20 new apprentices, with plans for additional recruitment scheduled for later in the year.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday, 25 June, Cllr Hodgkinson will present a motion calling for a special Task Force to be set up to boost apprenticeship. He will reference recent figures which show that Gloucestershire has benefitted from 15,560 new apprenticeships since 2010.

Cllr Hodgkinson said: “The continued growth of the number of apprentices across Gloucestershire since the Lib Dems came into Government shows our commitment to building a stronger economy in a fairer society.

“In the Cotswolds area alone 1,860 new apprentices have been started. However, more can be done to make sure that this number continues to grow across the county.

“Apprenticeships can be a great alternative to university for people, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to be able to get a foot in the door with a local employer.

“By bringing county councillors from all parties to talk with employers, apprentices and schools, we can make sure that those young people who want a way to gain a skill have as many opportunities to do so as possible.

“That’s why I am calling for a new task force to really promote apprenticeships across Gloucestershire.”

Unanimous Support Given to Call to Improve Ambulance Response Times

A Liberal Democrat motion calling for urgent improvements to ambulance response times was debated and supported unanimously at Gloucestershire County Council yesterday.

ambulance rushing

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s (SWASFT) continual failure to meet their 75% target in responding to ‘Red’ calls within 8 minutes in four out of six districts in Gloucestershire prompted the debate.

Commenting, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-Water & Northleach) said:

“The latest figure for Gloucestershire shows that the 8 minute response target is being reached across the county in 69.4% of cases.

“This figure however masks a real divide in what could be argued as a two tier service. Cheltenham and Gloucester show 88% and 87%, but Stroud, Tewkesbury and Forest of Dean ambulance response rates are much lower with the Cotswolds being just 46%.

”Lives depend on an effective and efficient ambulance service. No one doubts that getting to an incident in more remote areas is more challenging but if a target is set surely the service should be structured so that it is achieved?

“I am pleased that we got cross-party support over this very important issue and that both the Leader and Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council will now write to the CEO of the Trust calling on the Service to improve the ambulance response times.”

Also, commenting about the Ambulance Trust’s latest announcement of an additional £700,000 of resources for Gloucestershire to improve performance, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson said:

“The extra resources is very good news. I am delighted that the Trust has finally seen that there is a real need to act on improving performance. I look forward to seeing how these additional funds will impact the Cotswolds.”

 

Council makes £10 million profit from parking charges

The campaign against Cotswold District Council’s high parking charges gained fresh impetus this week from new figures showing that the Council has made millions from motorists in the last few years.

Pounds

In answer to a question to Cabinet Member Barry Gibbs about parking income and expenditure, shocked opposition councillors heard that the authority had made a profit of almost £10 million from charges since 2006.

The total income from the district’s car parks came to £14,634,000 in the period 2006-2013 whilst parking costs came to £5,245,000.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group (Churn Valley) said he was staggered by the new figures:

“These numbers are eye watering and people will be rightly angry that they are being hit hard hit by these charges whilst the Council’s administration refuses to cut them substantially.”

He warned that, if the charges continued, the impact on the economy of local market towns would be dire:

“Council parking charges can either encourage or choke off economic development,” he said. “If councils want people to visit their towns and villages, stay a while to shop and perhaps eat at local restaurants, then they should cut charges.

“If they want their towns to compete with out-of-town shopping locations which have ample free parking, then they should provide the ability for people to park cheaply in town centres for short business and shopping visits.”

“I want places like Cirencester, Stow and Tetbury to maintain their role as centres for the surrounding rural areas, from which travel by car is the only convenient means of transport. That means the Council should recognise this and stop milking the motorist.”

Previously, petitions against the charges – presented to CDC in 2011 – have topped 2,000 signatures.

Cllr Joe Harris (Cirencester Park), who challenged the Council’s Conservative administration to stop using parking charges as a cash cow, accused them of riding roughshod over local opinion:

“People have told us on the street that increased parking charges have influenced where they shop, with some people deserting the towns in favour of places with cheaper or free parking.

“We demand an end to these excessive profits from car parking in the Cotswolds.”

Air Balloon upgrade to be ‘taken very seriously’ by Government

A notorious traffic blackspot has been seen first hand by the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister.

CleggKramerPaul

Prospective MP for the Cotswolds Cllr Paul Hodgkinson invited Nick Clegg and Susan Kramer to see for themselves the ongoing issues at the Air Balloon A417 junction last Friday.

Following the latest death in the area 2 weeks ago, Cllr Hodgkinson said that urgent action must happen without any further delay:

“There have been 5 deaths in this location in the last 6 months. Such a sad waste of life is coupled with dreadful congestion and pollution problems. Politicians have been to Westminster to get a solution but I’ve asked Westminster to come to the area to see first hand why this has to be fixed.”

A campaign to get the ‘Missing Link’ on the A417 solved with a dual carriageway has gained momentum recently. Now, Mr Clegg has pledged that the Government will look at the issue “very seriously” after seeing the problems caused by the notorious stretch of road.

Mr Clegg was presented with the compelling argument by Paul Hodgkinson in favour of replacing the road between the Cowley roundabout and Brockworth with a new dual carriageway. The Transport Minister Susan Kramer also heard from residents the issue of rat- running through local villages as a result of gridlock on the A417.

Cllr Hodgkinson added, “My call for a commitment from Government to get this blackspot fixed has a better chance than ever before of turning into real action. This is having a real impact on the regional economy and I won’t rest until this is sorted out.”

Call for volume to be turned down after road cash revealed

A lobby group is calling for noise from a busy road to be lowered after figures show large amounts of income going to the company maintaining it.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

The issue of excessive noise from the A419/417 dual carriageway between Gloucester and Swindon has been a running sore for residents since it was first built in 1998. Various attempts to reduce the sound have been made over the years without success.

Since 2012, a group of residents and councillors have been working to reduce noise pollution from the road. Calling themselves A419NAG (Noise Action Group) they come from Bagendon, Baunton, Latton, Down Ampney, Driffield, Cirencester and Cerney Wick.

Now, they have released figures showing that a large amount of money has gone to Road Management Services (Gloucester) Ltd, the company which maintains the 32 mile highway.

Figures obtained by the group from the Highways Agency show that Road Management Services received a total of £285 million from the Government from 1996 to 2013. This was part of the contract agreed when the road was built and is based on a ‘shadow toll’ for every vehicle using the road. It is estimated that the company will receive at least another £200 million until the agreement ends in 2026.

Road Management Services have confirmed that they spend between £1 and £1.5 million a year on maintaining the road, excluding management costs.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) is chairman of A419 NAG and believes the figures show that cash is available to reduce the noise, “Those who live around Cirencester suffer just as much from excessive and irritating noise from the road as those around the Water Park area and north Wiltshire. People have been raising the issue again and we are calling for something fundamental to be done about this.”

“This is about righting a wrong – since the completion of the dual carriageway, a large amount of cash has been given out by the Government and very little spent in comparison. Surely a small part of this eye popping £285 million can be spent on reducing the noise? It is a reasonable thing to ask.”

Cllr Hodgkinson added, “We believe that the Highways Agency in conjunction with Road Management Services should use some of the cash and address this issue once and for all. Measures can be taken to bring the noise levels down.”

The group is currently producing a report, detailing the responses of 500 residents who have completed a survey on the impacts of noise pollution. They aim to publish this in the early summer.

Call for roads to be fixed to boost cycling

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Data supplied by the National Office of Statistics shows that cycling to work has dropped by a massive 26% in the last ten years in the Cotswolds compared to a rise of 14% across the country.

Whilst the rest of the UK has had a bout of cycling fever on the back of Tour de France and Olympics success, Gloucestershire has lagged behind. Figures for the census period 2001-2011 announced on 26 March reveal that cities like Bristol saw a sharp increase of 94% in people cycling to work whilst the South West as a whole has seen a rise of 15%. In contrast, the Cotswolds has dropped at an alarming rate whilst nearby Tewkesbury dropped by 7% and only Cheltenham managed a 4% increase.

Now, Cotswolds Liberal Democrat MP hopeful Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is calling for the County Council to use some of the cash from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to improve road conditions:

“Spending money on cycling is cost-effective.  It reduces traffic, improves air quality, and improves health for the cyclists and for anyone breathing the local air.  The figures show that when towns and villages spend time, effort and money, they have been rewarded.

“In rural areas the roads feel lethal. Friends who are “would-be-cyclists” won’t cycle anywhere whilst the roads feel so intimidating.  The A40 and A436 are two roads which see high speeds and it feels very unsafe to cycle. I cycle on roads but don’t feel very safe and would do more of it if the conditions were better.

“These new figures suggest that making rural roads pot hole free and providing space for cyclists does work. In the Churn Valley I set up a safer cycling group 5 years ago and we have used the existing bridlepath between Stratton and North Cerney to give a route for bikes and walkers which is away from cars. It has cost very little due to people giving their time for free and this could happen elsewhere in the county.

Paul Morrish, from Shipton is a regular cyclist and works in Cheltenham. He would like to see disused railways used for cycling, walking and horse-riding, particularly as rural communities grow bigger:

“In rural areas and towns there is a high perception of danger.  Vehicles are getting wider which means less space on the road for bikes, pedestrians or horses.  Pot-holes are potentially lethal to cyclists –  hit one and you can be thrown off, avoid one and you can be killed if you swerve.

“A collision between car and cyclist will inevitably leave the cyclist physically worse off, but can leave the driver with unresolvable guilt.  There are many more developments planned in rural areas but sustainable transport needs to be considered as part of that.“

Now Cllr Hodgkinson has written to the County Council’s Highways boss for more to be done to sort out potholes and to provide better routes for Gloucestershire’s cyclists:

“These figures show the county has a lot to do to improve conditions on its roads and to encourage people to cycle so they feel safe and able to do what the rest of the country is doing in ever greater numbers. Whilst cycling to work in rural areas will always be more difficult we can take steps to make it a real option for people whilst improving road conditions in the towns.”

Royal Mail says no to war hero tribute

There’s disappointment in Bourton on the Water after Royal Mail bosses refused to commemorate a war hero.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with John Cork

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with John Cork

John Cork, chairman of Bourton Royal British Legion, wanted greater recognition for Major General Dudley Johnson, who was born in the village and was one of only three men in Gloucestershire to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Major Johnson served in World War One, which is being commemorated this year on its 100th anniversary.

Mr Cork thought painting the village post box in VC colours would have made a fitting tribute. He contacted Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Glos County Council, Bourton & Northleach) who wrote to the Royal Mail asking for their support.

Cllr Hodgkinson was disappointed at the response:

“The Royal Mail have said no to this wonderful idea. It saddens me that they can’t allow this simple thing to commemorate a war hero’s achievement. Bourton is an iconic Cotswolds village and many tourists would see this special post box and ask what the different colour meant. 

“They did it for Olympic gold medallists and so they should do the same for Victoria Cross holders in this centenary year.”  he added.

“In fact, this could happen right across the country to recognise the special contribution a group of people made in fighting for Britain.”

Cllr Hodgkinson said that he would be contacting the Ministry of Defence to push the idea forward:

“Someone has to see sense over this. A bit of flexibility from the Royal Mail would be the right thing to do.”

 

Apprentice Week boosts opportunities in the Cotswolds

National Apprentice Week was held last week and Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is already seeing a boost in opportunities for young people in the Cotswolds.

Jordan McKenna (left) with Paul Hodgkinson in Cirencester.

Jordan McKenna (left) with Paul Hodgkinson in Cirencester.

Speaking in Cirencester, Cllr Hodgkinson sees the initiative as a way of getting people into jobs:

“The huge increase in the number of apprentices since the Lib Dems came into Government is something to really celebrate. In the Cotswolds there have been many new apprenticeships each year since 2010. There can be a pressure to go to university but apprenticeships offer a way for young people to get a skill or foot in the door with a company which then translates into a job.

Cllr Hodgkinson, the Prospective MP for the area, met with one successful apprentice in Cirencester this week to talk about how he had made the transition from apprentice to full time employee.

Jordan McKenna, 21, was taken on as an apprentice by Cirencester Housing Society and is now working permanently for the organisation as a Housing Officer. Mr McKenna described his experience as ‘a great way to get into the industry’.

Latest figures for the Cotswolds show that over a thousand apprentices have been taken on by local companies since the Coalition Government was formed. Cllr Hodgkinson welcomed the change:

“Meeting Jordan showed me just how positive this can be. I know from speaking to local bosses that they would like to take on apprentices and I will continue to work for more opportunities like this to be created.”

 

 

 

 

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Paul Hodgkinson

Photo of Paul Hodgkinson
Corinium House
Perrotts Brook
Glos
GL7 7BL
T: 01285 651122
E:

Paul has lived in the Cotswolds since 1989 and is the Liberal Democrat prospective MP for our area.

He is Director of his own successful business which has been running for the last 10 years. Paul was elected to Cotswold District Council for the Churn Valley Ward in May 2007. He was re-elected in May 2011. In May 2013 he was also elected to Gloucestershire County Council for the Bourton & Northleach division. His priorities in the Cotswolds are:
  • Protecting our countryside from over-development, fighting for a stronger economy by cutting parking charges and boosting local services like post offices and faster broadband, campaigning for safer roads and better public transport through our towns and villages.