Task group set up to save lives on A429

At last week’s County Council Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee unanimous cross-party support was given to the setting up of a task group to investigate safety and congestion on the A429.

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Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the Water and Northleach) requested a ‘call for action’ back in the Summer and now the Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee will look at road safety issues along the A429.

Cllr. Hodgkinson said that “The Cotswolds continues to have the worst accident record in Gloucestershire, every life lost on our roads can be avoided and we should act to prevent further injury and loss of life on this stretch of road. I’m therefore delighted that the Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee has today supported for my calls to set up a working group.

“Once formed, this group can work together to come up with recommendations that deal with safety and also to work out how to ease the increasing gridlock which Stow, Moreton and Bourton all face regularly.

“As I’ve said before this road wasn’t built for a massive increase in traffic – the whole thing needs looking at and hopefully through this task group solutions can be found.”

3,000 could lose free school meals under Government plans

Thousands of children in the Cotswolds could lose their right to a free school meal under the Conservative Government’s plans to review the scheme.

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Universal free school meals offer every infant child a healthy meal at lunchtime, which saves families more than £400 per child per year.

Evidence shows where children have been given a free school dinner, their results improved compared to youngsters who didn’t get one.

These academic improvements were most marked among children from the poorest backgrounds.

There are currently 2,957 children who receive free school meals in the Cotswold district who would lose them if the Government follow through with plans reported in the media recently.

County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said: “If this goes ahead, the Government will show it is willing to take an axe to the education budget at the expense of children’s learning.

“By scrapping this policy they would take food off the plates of thousands children across the Cotswolds who now benefit from a free healthy meal at lunchtime. I’ve seen first hand how primary schools like Bourton and North Cerney have made changes to their buildings to accommodate the extra meals. When I served pupils their lunch at North Cerney I was very impressed by the standard of food and the children seemed to love it.

“The Liberal Democrats fought tooth and nail to get this through in Coalition because we want every child to have the best possible start in life and be able to concentrate in class, and all the evidence shows that a healthy meal helps with that.

“Instead of investing in our children, the Government is turning up at the school gate and taking their lunch away. I ask them to think again.”

In the bag

From Monday 5 October plastic bags have to be paid for in larger shops throughout England.

PH plastic bags

From that day, England falls into line with Wales and Scotland in charging 5p a bag.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) welcomes the move:

“Wales has seen a 90% drop in plastic bag usage since the charge was introduced which is having a major positive impact on the environment – plastic bags can hang around for up to 100 years and are often seen drifting around streets and the countryside.

“The Lib Dems in the last Coalition Government introduced this green initiative.  People can stock up on bags now to make sure they don’t then have to pay from next week – reusing bags will be the way forward.

“But there is nowhere now to recycle plastic bags in the Cotswolds – there used to be facilities at Tescos and some other stores.

“Would CDC be able to provide recycling of plastic bags? That way we could have a ‘double whammy’ of much lower usage and the bags that do get used could also be recycled!”

Air Balloon solution stalling

Last year the Department of Transport approved funding to Highways England for fixing the A417 ‘Missing Link’, as part of a £15 billion countrywide road improvement scheme, but it has now been confirmed that a solution will not be delivered before 2021.

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Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bouton-On-the-Water and Northleach) raised the issue this week with a Senior County Council Officer and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in his capacity as Chairman of the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said: “Many of us have spent years lobbying for a solution to the triple problems at the A417 – air pollution, gridlock and accidents. The outgoing Coalition Government committed to a sum of £250 million to be allocated to solving the Missing Link last December.

“Now, the new Government appears to be moving the goalposts. Not only do we now have no absolute commitment to spending money on a solution but the date for actual works is moving back beyond 2021.

A report from the LEP presented to the county’s council leaders this week stated that ‘..Highways England say any delivery of A417 solution is not in current funding programme to 2021’.

Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents part of the area covered by the A417 added: “Fixing the A417 does not feature on Highways England’s current funding programme up to 2021 and I’ve also seen no guarantees that it’ll feature on any programme after 2021 either.

“This isn’t on. We want a clear and definite commitment and total clarity about when works will start.”

Cllr Nigel Robbins (LD: Cirencester Beeches) who represents another part of the A417 said: “How many more fatalities are going to happen on this stretch of road before something is finally delivered? Fixing the A417 is vital in cutting accidents and reducing congestion and pollution levels.

“More than 6,600 people pledged their support in January 2014 when it seemed we had finally turned a corner in delivering a solution.

 “Residents of Gloucestershire deserve certainty and the timetable for delivering a solution to fixing the A417 missing link is slipping. I’m calling for more to be done to get it back on track.”

“We’ll continue to campaign to get the missing link fixed.”

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.

Businesses asked for views on noisy road

An action group from along the A419/A417 is asking local businesses for their views on the noisy road.

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The issue of noise from the dual carriageway 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 so far. The action group, calling themselves A419NAG, was formed in 2012 and is made up of local residents and councillors who live in the Cotswolds and North Wiltshire. It surveyed 500 residents last year and the findings showed that the road is having a real impact on people’s lives and health.

The research findings were published in a report called ’The Social Consequences of Road Noise’ and found that from 500 respondents 97% said they could hear the noise from the concrete section of the dual carriageway. 88% said it was disruptive to their everyday lives.  Many reported loss of sleep and headaches, others stress and anxiety.

Now, the group is taking its campaign one step further by seeking feedback from businesses near to the busy highway.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is chairing the group and says the aim of the new survey is to find out whether the road noise is impacting on the local economy:

“Last year’s report made uncomfortable reading for the authorities. Highways England have taken it seriously and met with us but have said that it is the economic impact which could help push the Government to act.

“So now we want to find out how the road noise affects businesses located close to the concrete section of the A417/A419. We’ve set up a pilot online survey and have approached some firms along the stretch of the road to see if the noise is also an issue for them, their staff and customers.

“Once we’ve got the results of the pilot we will roll out the survey out to a wider area along the dual carriageway and will publish the findings in a report later this year.

“Our aim as always is to show that there is an issue here with this road which needs addressing. It must be solved before the improvements to the Air Balloon roundabout come on stream as those much-needed changes will inevitably lead to more traffic along the whole stretch of the road further south.”

 

The survey can be accessed at: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/A419NAGBusinessSurvey/.  It will be available to complete online until July 31st 2015.

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.”