Seven Springs to be first for ultrafast internet

Fed up with slow internet speeds and constant buffering?

Paul with pupils from Andoversford School at the the launch of the faster broadband project.

Paul with pupils from Andoversford School at the the launch of the faster broadband project.

Following on from the first rollout of faster broadband to some Cotswold towns and villages including Andoversford, the County Council has now announced a second phase.

Just over six and a half thousand properties in the rural Cotswolds will be hooked up to the faster service by autumn 2017. The new supplier, Gigaclear, has a record of connecting rural homes in other counties and have announced that the new roll has already started this autumn.

Places to benefit first include Seven Springs, Coberley and Colesbourne, followed later by Withington, Chedworth and Cold Aston.

The “Fastershire’ website shows all homes included in the new roll out – take a look to see if you’re included under ‘Phase Two’. If you’re not and think you should be please contact Fastershire directly or Councillor Paul Hodgkinson.

Paul has welcomed the news: “For those homes getting this good news it is very welcome – many of us are fed up with painfully slow connections and this can’t come a minute too soon. It’s great that our area will be the first in the Cotswolds to get the better service. This is now an essential service in the 21st century. I was in Greece recently where even in the remotest areas there was a 4G phone signal and fast broadband – if they can do it with severe financial problems so can we as the fourth biggest economy in the World!

“I will continue to fight for every house to get access to a better service.”

Paul added: “Now the battle to get a decent phone signal everywhere is about to get more intense. There are too many ‘not spots’ which need addressing.”

 

“Get the road signs cleared!”

A call has been made to sort out our area’s road signs.

C8G2TM Road sign obscured by shrubs, UK

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has asked why road signs are unreadable and overgrown and has called for them to be cleared across the Cotswolds.

He met with Gloucestershire Highways and the Amey road contractors this week:

“We drove up and down one of the roads in my county council division (the A435 between Cirencester and Cheltenham) and I pointed out the signs which were either totally invisible or partly obscured.

“I’ve had a commitment that there will be major cut backs of vegetation in the next 7 weeks.

“I’ve noticed many signs across Gloucestershire are unreadable or only visible when you are on top of them – which can be too late if you are looking for something.

“The A429 on the approach to Northleach from Bourton is particularly bad – big signs are almost totally covered by overhanging branches. Clearing them is a no brainer to me as money’s been spent on the signs in the first place and it helps people who don’t know the area to navigate safely. At this time of year there are a lot of tourists driving round our area.

Cllr Hodgkinson feels it’s also about a clear and professional approach:

“There’s also something here about civic pride in having a clean and having a well maintained road network.”

Review of A429 called for

Following last week’s two deaths along the A429 in the Cotswolds, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) is calling for the County Council to urgently set up a task group to get to grips with issues along the road.

accident

He has called today for the Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee to look at the issue at its September meeting:

“The issue for us locally is that the Cotswolds continues to have the worst accident record in Gloucestershire. There were still 10 deaths in the district last year – that is 10 too many with the impact that has on families and friends of those who lost their lives. Now we have ben blighted by a further 2 on the Fosse Way. I get repeated concerns from residents about the state of the road and its dangers. It’s now time to act.

“Working with other councillors in the Cotswolds I am calling for the Council to set up a working group to come up with some recommendations to deal with safety and also to work out how to ease the increasing gridlock which Stow, Moreton and Bourton all now face regularly.

“This road wasn’t built for a massive increase in traffic – the whole thing needs looking at.”

Cllr Hodgkinson has submitted a ‘councillor call for action’ which requires the Council to now consider what action it should take.

You can hear Paul’s interview with Radio Gloucestershire about this issue here:

https://audioboom.com/boos/3480054-paul-hodgkinson-calls-for-action-over-the-a429

Council approves new ways to grow local apprenticeships

County Councillors have approved a report that proposes how best to promote and grow apprenticeships across Gloucestershire.

apprentices

At a full council meeting council members unanimously agreed recommendations put forward by the Cllr Pau Hodgkinson and the ‘ Apprenticeship task group’. The proposals include doing more to put apprenticeships at the forefront of people’s minds earlier in a young persons’ school career.

To help inform the report, the task group ran a number of focus groups with employers, schools, training providers and young people to discover the challenges facing apprenticeships. Employers across Gloucestershire were also surveyed about their experiences.

The group discovered three key issues facing apprenticeships in the county; the perception of apprenticeships among some teachers, schools, young people and parents does not match reality, young people need high quality career advice and support to develop the skills they need to start their careers in the workplace and employers need to be better informed, supported and encouraged to take on apprentices. The task group then looked into ways to tackle these issues.

The apprenticeship task group was set up following a motion to council in June 2014 led by Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) who has also chaired the cross-party initiative:

“When I proposed last year that we set up a task force to boost the number of apprenticeships locally I didn’t realise just how much we could achieve in a short time. Working cross-party we have seen that there’s a lot of work to be done to get the message out loud and clear that apprenticeships are a brilliant way to enter the world of work.

“Now, we have come up with a set of recommendations which will give employers, schools and young people much more information about how to become an apprentice. Many employers have issues in finding the right people for roles and so getting people equipped with the right skills through apprenticeships is one way to help address this.”

Using their knowledge of apprenticeships in the county the group has also been able to provide valuable advice to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) on its commissioning of an apprenticeship hub.

Since 2010, 15560 apprenticeships have been created in the county.

Faster broadband for the Cotswolds

Following on from the first rollout of faster broadband to some Cotswold towns and villages, the County Council has now announced a second phase.
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Just over six thousand properties in the rural Cotswolds will be hooked up to the faster service by 2017. The new supplier, Gigaclear, has a record of connecting rural homes. Villages to benefit include Chedworth, Withington and Colesbourne.

Speaking to journalists following the announcement, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson welcomed the news but says he wants the plans to go further:

“For those homes getting this good news it is very welcome but having looked at the list of properties it still means that quite a lot of people will miss out.  This is now an essential service in the 21st century. I was in Greece recently where even in the remotest areas there was  a 4G phone signal and fast broadband – if they can do it so can we! 

“I will continue to fight for every house to get access to a better service.”

Call to speed up broadband roll out

Having problems downloading and buffering?

rural broadband

At the recent County Council Environment Scrutiny Committee Cllr Paul Hodgkinson raised the subject of faster broadband again.

This was on the back of an update at the meeting from Shire Hall bosses about the faster broadband roll out in the Cotswolds.

Paul said: “The situation is that there is a current roll out by Fastershire across Gloucestershire which will hook up 90% of properties to faster broadband by the end of the year.

“I asked what will happen to the remaining 10% of properties. The story here is that a new contract for the remaining 10% is being put out to tender and this will be awarded by GCC next month. Three companies have applied for this.

“Once the contract has been awarded the new provider will start hooking up as many of the remaining 10% of properties as possible.

“This is a really key issue for residents and businesses in the Cotswolds. My own internet speed is painfully slow – I work from home some of the time and its a real barrier to that. I am lucky to get 1.5 mbps at fastest!

This week I am meeting with residents in Colesbourne, Coberley and Elkstone to work out how we can push for a commitment to a better service.

Now Paul has asked County bosses for a detailed map of where the final 10% roll out will go and will be communicating that to residents.

Pull your socks up, roads contractor told

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson received cross-party support yesterday for a call to monitor more closely Gloucestershire’s highways contract with Amey. He also received backing to continue imposing financial penalties if performance targets are not consistently achieved in the upcoming 2015/2016 financial year.

The long awaited debate coinciding with World Pothole Day regarding the condition of Gloucestershire roads was finally discussed with contributions made from elected members across all political parties.

PaulPothole

Shadow Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-water and Northleach) who led the call said that:

“This debate has been a long time coming, but I’m pleased that elected representatives have finally had a chance to voice in public their concerns and frustrations regarding the county’s highways contract with Amey.

“The very fact that my request for closer monitoring of the contract and for financial penalties to be imposed if they don’t keep up with high performance has received such support from all sides of the chamber tells me that there are still many problems that need addressing.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Cabinet Member for Highways has finally taken off his ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ to see that something needs to be done. It is time that Amey pulled up their socks and get on with the job that Gloucestershire’s residents, businesses and visitors all deserve.

 

Bin the litter!

A call is being made to keep the Cotswolds cleaner.

Paul Hodgkinson collecting bag fulls of rubbish with local resident Christine Watson

Paul Hodgkinson collecting bag fulls of rubbish with local resident Christine Watson

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds) is calling for Cotswold District Council to be more proactive in clearing the area of unsightly rubbish.

At present, the Council picks up litter in some areas regularly but many rural roads face long waits between visits by waste collectors.

Cllr Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) believes the time is right for the Council to keep the Cotswolds cleaner:

“At this time of year the verges are clear of leaves and you can see the litter strewn everywhere. Fast food cartons, coffee cups and plastic bags make our unique area look like a tip. What message does this send out to visitors and residents who want to enjoy the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

“Because the Council’s litter collections are so infrequent people are taking the matter into their own hands and doing litter picks themselves. I’ve been out with local residents and we brought back bags laden down with wine and vodka bottles thrown out of car windows. It was pretty shocking to see what the verges are full of.

“I know many people take huge pride in the Cotswolds and want to see it kept clean and tidy. I’m saddened by the amount of litter along the verges of our country roads and lanes and it’s time to take some action.”

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson is proposing a motion to Cotswold District Council which calls for a more proactive approach to litter picking to be taken so that A and B roads in the Cotswolds receive more regular, programmed clear ups than is currently the case. The motion will be heard at the Council’s meeting on 24 February.

The call is being backed Cllr Joe Harris (Cirencester Park): “It’s not just the rural roads which are a problem. Crisp packets and sweet wrappers thrown down are also spoiling our towns. I organised two litter picks recently around Cirencester with students from the Royal Agricultural University who did their bit to make the area cleaner.

“It’s not asking for much to get the Council to act on this issue and I hope the Conservatives will see sense and join with us in literally clearing up the mess. “

Road noise levels double – shock findings

An action group from along the A419/A417 have published startling new figures which show a dramatic increase in noise levels.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

The issue of noise from the dual carriageway has been rumbling on for residents since it was first built in 1998. Various attempts to reduce the sound have been made over the years without success so far. An action group, calling themselves A419NAG, was formed in 2012 and has been lobbying on behalf of residents all along the infamous road.

Now, the group is taking its campaign one step further by publishing noise readings taken at two locations along the highway.

Measurements were taken at Latton in Wiltshire and Cerney Wick in the Cotswold district. They show that the noise has doubled since the road was built 17 years ago.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) is chairing the group and believes the new figures give firm evidence that action should be taken at last:

“Our readings show that noise levels have doubled since the road was built in the late 1990’s. For residents living anywhere near the dual carriageway it’s not a surprise but it’s still shocking nonetheless. This pollution is more than an irritant – excess noise has been proven to impact on your health and well-being.”

“Now, as we are making public these figures for the first time they make uncomfortable reading for the authorities.”

Ray Brassington, a member of the group, took the readings using equipment supplied by Cotswold District Council. He was retracing his steps as he did the same thing in 1998 when the road was first built: “I was employed by CDC in 1998 as an Environmental Health Officer and undertook an extensive noise survey along the length of the A419/417 and one of the monitoring locations was in Cerney Wick. The readings then were taken at the exact same location as now and over a same 15 minute period.

“What I’ve found is that the noise level has doubled in that time.”

The World Health Organisation states that to protect the majority of people from being seriously annoyed during the daytime and evening the outdoor noise level should not exceed 55dB. At night time sound levels 1m from the facade of house should not exceed 45 dB so that people can sleep with windows open. The WHO has also stated that prolonged exposure to noise above 55dB can trigger raised blood pressure and even heart attacks.

Ray added: “The noise levels at this location have increased by 9 dB over the 16 years the road has been in operation and are now almost twice as loud. I also took readings at Latton in Wiltshire and these were also almost twice as loud as stipulated by the World Health Organisation.

Now the group is contacting DEFRA to arrange a meeting in order to present its findings.

Cllr Hodgkinson is certain this new information will help residents: “This is about righting a wrong – since the completion of the dual carriageway, people living along this section of the road have told us they suffer excessive noise pollution. Now we know for sure that this is a real problem backed up by data. We now call on the authorities to take the action they should have taken years ago.”

“We will let the findings speak for themselves and drown out the sound of the traffic.”

All ears for better phone coverage

Mobile phone operators in the Cotswolds are being urged to provide a better service.

PaulJulietPhone

Liberal Democrat Councillors were backed unanimously today in applying pressure to get a fairer deal when it comes to a decent phone signal.

Parliamentary Candidate, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley), who proposed a motion to the Council Meeting, said: “This is part of a campaign to address the large number of ‘not spots’ in the Cotswolds. So many villages have little or no mobile coverage – and even the towns have black holes too.”

He claimed the Cotswolds is one a small number of areas in England that have poor or non-existent mobile coverage, especially in rural parts of the district.

“If you live in an isolated village or travel on quiet roads you want some reassurance that you can contact someone easily. Better mobile coverage not only adds to personal security but also is an essential pre requisite for running a business from home. There are many small businesses based in our villages and they require easy communication,” he said.

Currently, the mobile phone service across the area varies depending on your phone operator. The Government has pledged extra cash to boost coverage across the country but Cllr Hodgkinson feels that so far this has had little impact on the Cotswolds:

“As I travel around the district there are only two areas I can get a 3G or 4G signal – around Tetbury and Cirencester. In lots of other places people would be happy with 1G let alone anything else!”

“It’s time we had a fair and decent service right across the area – after all we all pay for our phones so we expect to be able to use them.”

Cllr Juliet Layton (Water Park) seconded the motion and backs the call for a 21st century phone service:

“Without good and reliable coverage a mobile phone, however ‘smart’ it may be, is simply a weight in a pocket.

“Functional public phone boxes are in decline and rural areas with no mobile coverage are left vulnerable when emergency, business and social calls are impossible or cut off through weak signal.”

Now, the Council’s CEO has committed to write to mobile phone operators, OFCOM and BT calling for better coverage in the Cotswolds and a detailed plan of how it will be improved, with timescales.