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.”

 

 

 

 

Council backs call for 999 service to be improved

A call was unanimously backed today for the 999 service in the Cotswolds to be improved.

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Latest figures for ambulance response times in the Cotswolds show targets being missed by very wide margins once again.

Data presented to Gloucestershire’s latest Health Scrutiny committee shows that ambulances have missed targets for responding to patients in every category.

For life threatening calls, the national target is for 75% of patients to be responded to within specified times. In the Cotswolds that figure for 2013 is as low as 46%. Nearby towns like Cheltenham have higher response times in every category assessed.

Today, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Paul Hodgkinson called on Cotswold District Council to press the ambulance service to hit its targets. He told the Council Meeting  that the Cotswolds has been losing out to other parts of the West:

“I view with alarm the failure by the ambulance service to miss its response time targets in the Cotswolds by large margins. I am calling for the Council to urge the service to hit its targets, thereby giving Cotswolds residents the service they deserve.

“The latest figures for ambulance response times are very worrying. They show yet again that the Cotswolds has the worst ambulance response times in the entire Western region. Every performance target for our area has been missed and often massively. No other district has a worse record in the last year.

“Residents have contacted me about their personal experiences. A gentleman from Siddington told me that his wife waited in freezing temperatures for one and a half hours before being taken to hospital after collapsing on the street. Although this example may be extreme it is still not right and the service has to be relied upon by us all.”

Now Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents the Churn Valley on the District Council, has already written to Great Western Ambulance Service, asking how the service will be improved for residents.

“People in the Cotswolds need to be reassured that everything is being done to hit these targets and that we don’t get a poorer service compared to bigger towns and cities. By making a united stand, Cotswold councillors can send a very clear message that we deserve better.”

The motion, backed by all councillors at the meeting, means that the Council’s Chief Executive will write to the ambulance service listing the councillors’ concerns.

 

MP challenged to go full-time

The Conservative MP for the Cotswolds has faced a call to give up his earnings outside Parliament.

Paul Hodgkinson has committed to being a full-time MP

Paul Hodgkinson has committed to being a full-time MP

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate, has challenged Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to put an end to his substantial second income after it was revealed that the MP has earned an average of £860 per hour from his second job.

Following an article in the Wilts and Glos Standard, Cllr Hodgkinson throws down the gauntlet by committing to have no earnings outside Parliament if elected next year:

“I call on Mr Clifton-Brown to ask his agreement to something which seems to me fundamental.

Serving constituents full time is in my opinion a basic requirement of being an MP. The job of an MP pays four times the average full-time salary in the Cotswolds. It comes with additional allowances for certain aspects of the job, and expenses for travel and other costs. Most of an MP’s constituents would be extremely grateful to receive such benefits.

According to the Parliamentary register of the MP’s declared interests Mr Clifton-Brown has received a total of £125,000 from August 2011 until November 2013 from earnings outside Westminster. This was for a total of 80 days work, or 478 hours. This equates to an average rate of £5,000 per day or £860 per hour.

Cllr Hodgkinson commented:

” I have nothing against high earnings but if I am elected as MP in May 2015 I will be a full time MP. I will close down my business and will take no other income from work outside Parliament. I can’t see how I would have the time, but as a matter of principle I will be a full time MP concentrating only on that role and nothing else.

“If those extra days were spent in the constituency could they not have added something to society? Could they not have been used to Improve services locally? Or change something?

Councillor Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) makes it clear that nothing other than being a full time representative for the Cotswolds is acceptable:

“Will Mr Clifton-Brown commit today to taking no further earnings from outside Parliament? Will he follow my lead in agreeing to being a full time MP?”

Mr Clifton-Brown has been the MP for the Cotswolds since 1992 and featured prominently in the expenses scandal in 2009 when he ‘flipped’ his £3 million home in Daglingworth.

 

‘Bin the school waste charges’ campaign kicks off

A campaign kicked off this week to throw Cotswolds primary schools a cash lifeline.

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde.

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds) is calling for primary schools to be included in Cotswold District Council’s waste collection service.

At present, all primary schools are classed as ‘businesses’ and have to pay for their waste to be collected by private contractors.

Cllr Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) believes the time is right for the Council to be flexible:

“I have previously asked the Leader of the Council to be bold and generous on this issue but it fell on deaf ears. His administration currently doesn’t collect waste from primary schools in the district. However, small rural schools like Chedworth, Southrop and North Cerney pay as much as £1,000 each year for this – when their budgets are very stretched.

“At the moment a school like Temple Guiting has to pay for a private waste lorry to come into the village especially to pick up one or two bins of rubbish. That doesn’t make any sense from a green or cash perspective.

“Given that CDC’s domestic waste lorries literally drive past the schools every time they collect rubbish from residents and could easily pick up their bins, I feel the Council should throw a lifeline to our small schools by including them in waste collections. This would save schools much needed cash.”

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson has joined forces with North Cerney Primary School Governor Jenny Forde by writing to all 44 Cotswolds primary schools asking them to back the campaign. Ms Forde, who lives in Bagendon, feels that schools work hard to make small budgets go a long way:

“Every single penny makes a difference to our children’s education. I think it would stick in most people’s throats if they knew they were paying twice for waste collection – through their council tax and through public money that goes towards our state schools.

“This solution seems like common sense to help our schools out so they can put taxpayer’s money to better use to educating our children.”

Once they have heard from all primary schools in the area, Cllr Hodgkinson will present the responses to a Cotswold District Council meeting with Ms Forde.

Campaign kicks off for EU flood money

Gloucestershire’s Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson has continued the fight for the region to obtain EU funding to tackle flooding after meeting with the European Commission responsible for the EU Solidarity Fund. The news comes as an online petition to support Graham’s campaign reaches nearly 1,000 signatures.

Paul (right) with North Cerney resident Tim Adams, whose home was spared from floods this time round due to a new bridge being installed.

Paul (right) with North Cerney resident Tim Adams, whose home was spared from floods this time round due to a new bridge being installed.

Watson met with Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner responsible for administering the emergency fund. The Euro-MP has been given a reassurance by the Commissioner that Britain could apply for such funding, or utilise EU regional development funds towards flooding prevention infrastructure in the future.

Watson will now continue to press the government to take immediate action, commenting:

“After taking this issue directly to the man who is responsible for this emergency fund, I will now continue to lobby the government to see that action is done. It is time the UK Treasury and Owen Paterson come clean and admit that the government can apply for EU funding.

“Whilst there are rules stipulating the size of damage in order to apply for national funding, there is provision to apply for funding on a regional basis and I have been given assurance that an application could be made for the South West.

“In Gloucestershire, the flooding has become an annual occurrence and enough is enough.

“It is time for a long term solution that will not only ensure the necessary repairs are carried out now, but to also ensure we can prevent flooding from becoming something we permanently live with.”

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Cotswolds, set up a flooding group last year to solve problems in the Churn Valley. This resulted in action by Cotswold District Council which prevented homes from flooding this time round. But he said that the flooding was ‘making life a misery’ for other residents, commenting:

“I have seen first-hand the impact on residents in Cirencester this month of flooded drains and raw sewage on the streets.

“I am backing Graham’s call because Gloucestershire – and the Cotswolds in particular – has once again been at the mercy of the ever extreme weather patterns. Towns like Cirencester deserve a share of EU money to help clear up from the impact of flooding and upgrade the creaking sewage systems which aren’t able to cope with the deluge of water. This is now a yearly event for some and it is making life a misery for those concerned.”

Cash helps village halls

Three Cotswolds groups have been given County Council cash to kick-start community improvements by sprucing up their buildings.

Paul Hodgkinson with members of the Victoria Hall committee, Bourton

Paul Hodgkinson (front left) with members of the Victoria Hall committee, Bourton

The council set aside £600,000 in its Community Building Improvement Grants scheme to help organisations develop their properties and equipment and so provide better services to support the local community.

Known as ComBI Grants, the money has been given to village halls and buildings in Bourton, Withington and North Cerney.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) said: “These grants recognise all the vital work that the Cotswolds’ community groups are doing locally.

“This initiative supports three buildings in the Cotswolds which are a focal point – the iconic Victoria Rooms in Bourton, the village hall in Withington and the Memorial Hall in North Cerney.

“I’m so pleased that these excellent buildings have got extra cash to help them thrive.”

Earmarked for everything from new flooring to heating systems, the grants were awarded to capital projects that enable community groups to generate additional income or reduce their costs – and make it possible to do more to develop active communities.

Each organisation had to show it was not for private profit, it wanted to use the money for a new project and not a retrospective one, and it had a clear timeline for the improvements.

 

Call for NHS to come clean over future of Cheltenham hospital

A document has been made public which casts serious doubt on the local NHS hospitals trust’s reassuring words about the future of Cheltenham Hospital A&E.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

The document – drawn up by surgeons within Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals – was aimed at developing a long-term plan for all the different surgical specialties.  It contains a suggestion that emergency surgery should be taken from Cheltenham and centralised in Gloucester.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for the Cotswolds, has campaigned to reverse the change to Cheltenham’s A&E and is very concerned about the impact of this latest proposal on Cotswolds residents: 

“Some of the proposals are uncontroversial – no-one minds travelling a few miles for planned surgery if that means they get the best treatment.  But there are some services which you need to reach in a hurry and where, in an emergency, every second could counts. So the fact that emergency surgery was included in the list of specialties that might be centralised is worrying. Many people in the Cotswolds rely on Cheltenham as their nearest hospital.

“Major trauma emergency cases –  road accidents for instance – already go to Gloucestershire Royal and the hospital’s trust decided in July that overnight blue light ambulance admissions would also go to Gloucester and not to Cheltenham.  The trust said this was because recruitment problems had made it impossible to fully staff two A&Es 24 hours a day.  But the fear was that all ambulance admissions would soon follow and that Cotswolds patients who go to Cheltenham would be faced with a hospital with little more than a minor injuries unit.  Clinical research shows that, in an emergency like a severe asthma attack, the extra 8 miles would probably make a critical difference in a significant number of cases.

Liberal Democrat councillors on the local Health & Wellbeing Board called for a rethink in the plans earlier this year but were outvoted by Conservative councillors.  Cotswold Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he would prefer one A&E department and hoped Gloucester’s would be enhanced.

At the time the trust said there were no plans to close Cheltenham’s A&E but the surgeons’ document raises the prospect of emergency surgery being centralised in Gloucester, in which case Cheltenham A&E would have to close.

“We really need to know what the trust management are up to,” said Paul.  “What is the plan?  Are they taking this document seriously and contemplating the closure of Cheltenham’s A&E, even though they told us the opposite?  Are they committed to restoring two full A&E departments if they can? Or are they going to revive the old plan for one new hospital half way between Cheltenham and Gloucester?

“We need a well-informed but open debate, including Cotswolds residents, as soon as possible.”

Cut council red tape says prospective MP

A call to cut the number of bosses at Cotswold District Council has fallen on deaf ears.

cut red tape

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, parliamentary candidate for the Cotswolds, made the suggestion at a council meeting last week. It followed the recommendation by Lord Heseltine for council bosses to be axed across the country in a bid to save money and make things simpler.

Heseltine, a former Cabinet Minister, is the Prime Minister’s adviser on economic growth and has promoted a series of ideas for making local councils more efficient:

“You have this extraordinary phenomenon in this country with a council leader earning around £30,000 a year and the chief executive of the same council earning about £180,000 a year.” He added that he was not supportive of pay rises but thought the two jobs could be combined.

Cllr Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) grilled the Leader of Cotswold District Council on the subject, asking him, “Do you agree that councils should scrap the role of chief executive and give council leaders new powers and responsibilities to run local authorities, thus saving the taxpayer a large amount of money every year?”

But the Tory Leader dismissed the idea, claiming that the Council had ‘excellent and professional leadership’. In reply the Lib Dem prospective MP challenged the way the Council had failed to protect the Cotswolds from unwanted housing developments:

“The Leader is deluded. How can he possibly claim that his leadership is excellent when his council hasn’t kept its Local Plan up to date and has persistently failed to deliver housing, according to a High Court judge. Residents are seething at this incompetence.”

After the meeting, Cllr Hodgkinson said he would continue to push the idea of cutting red tape:

“By getting a more effective management set up at the Council it will save taxpayers money and sort out the mess left by the lack of a Local Plan for housing.”

 

 

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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.