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.”

 

 

Christmas parking gift welcomed

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has welcomed Gloucestershire County Council’s announcement that on-street parking will be free for Christmas shoppers for one of the busiest Saturdays before Christmas. 

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In a move designed to boost trade in local shops around the county it has been announced that shoppers will be able to park for up to 2 hours free, as well as use park and ride services free of charge on Saturday 7 December.

Prospective Cotswolds MP Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) has been leading the call for fairer parking charges in the Cotswolds and welcomed the move:

“It is refreshing to see a more politically balanced county council taking decisions which will benefit local people, whilst helping us to build a stronger local economy by boosting trade across Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds.”

“I’m passionate about putting local residents first and supporting local business. We believe this is a much fairer and more effective attitude to have compared with treating residents as cashcows in the way the Conservatives at Cotswold District Ccouncil have continued to.”

“How sad that CDC’s ruling administration won’t support small businesses yet persist with high parking charges.”

This is part of the wider “Small Business Saturday” initiative to support small businesses in the UK, for more information visit: http://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/

For on-street parking details, visit www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/parking

Council backs call to solve A417 gridlock

Following the tragic deaths of 3 people 2 weeks ago, a call was backed today to solve the traffic problems at a notorious Cotswolds junction.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) has been campaigning to get a solution to the pollution, gridlock and accident record around the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417 Today he proposed a motion at the Gloucestershire County Council meeting and received overwhelming backing for it.

Paul told us, “I was looking to bring the whole council together to take a lead in finding an urgent solution to these problems. We must face the facts and demand from Government real action before any more tragedies occur.”

The text of the motion, seconded by Cllr Iain Dobie, was: “This Council calls on the Department of Transport and the Highways Agency to take urgent action over the increasing traffic gridlock and pollution around the Air Balloon Roundabout (A417). The lack of a long term solution is harming the economy of the region and Gloucestershire and is blighting the lives of nearby residents. This Council should take a lead on this long running issue by bringing together other local authorities and agencies to reach a rapid solution. This is particularly pressing following the dreadful loss of life at this location recently.”

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson said: “I now look forward to seeing the various organisations, other local authorities and agencies coming together in finding a long-term solution to this problem road. If we are serious about building a stronger economy, reducing air pollution and cutting accidents and breakdowns, this is the way forward.

“Only a proper, long term solution will do.”

The vote was 45 for the motion, 1 against and 2 abstentions.

Sick of no signal?

Fed up with no mobile signal in our villages? So is Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is backing the 'Sick of no signal' campaign

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is backing the ‘Sick of no signal’ campaign

Now, on the back of his questions at Gloucestershire County Council about faster broadband, he has submitted a question to next week’s Council meeting about the lack of phone coverage in rural areas.

Many parts of the Cotswolds have a poor or non-existent mobile signal – even the centre of towns like Cirencester have issues with coverage.

Paul Hodgkinson feels something needs to be done to address this issue:

“I have asked the Leader about the lack of specific information about the faster broadband roll out in the county. This continues to be an issue. Also of importance in strengthening the economy and preventing isolation is the lack of mobile phone coverage in rural areas. In many parts of the Cotswolds people would be happy to have 1G let alone 3G!

“Now I’m asking the Council Leader what his administration is doing to widen mobile phone coverage across the whole county.’

“There are large swathes of rural Gloucestershire where there is no mobile coverage whatsoever. That’s why I’m backing the Countryside Alliance’s campaign ‘Sick of no signal’ to help the local economy and ensure people don’t feel isolated.

The question will be answered at the County Council meeting on 20 November.

See further coverage of this campaign here: http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Push-improve-Gloucestershire-s-mobile-phone/story-20090027-detail/story.html

New crossing gets thumbs up

Bourton residents have given a warm welcome to a new road crossing along Station Road.

Paul Hodgkinson, Ginie Moss and family at the new crossing

Paul Hodgkinson, Ginie Moss and family at the new crossing

In August, the County Council installed the 24/7 safety feature on one of the village’s busiest roads. It followed on from a mass petition calling for the crossing which was presented to Gloucestershire County Council last year.

A teacher at the Cotswold School – Ginie Moss – gathered 1100 names on the petition and was backed by County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson and Bourton Parish Council.

Now, all the campaigning has paid off. The crossing is in place sooner than expected and is being used by school students, mums and dads and older residents in particular.

Cllr Hodgkinson says its a good example of people working together to make something happen, “This all started with the enthusiasm of Mr and Mrs Moss and their determination to get something done to make the road safer for pedestrians.

“I campaigned with them to get this in place and its a credit to all those who signed the petition, put money into the scheme and lobbied for it that it is now a reality.

“Thanks to the parish council and our local schools for all their support on this.”

Call for action over gridlocked road

Lib Dem MEP for Gloucestershire Sir Graham Watson has visited the notorious Air Balloon roundabout.

L to R: Duncan McGaw from Coberley Parish Council. Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Watson at the traffic blackspot.

L to R: Duncan McGaw from Coberley Parish Council. Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Watson at the traffic blackspot.

He was invited by Cotswolds Parliamentary Candidate Cllr Paul Hodgkinson who is leading the call for an urgent solution to the congestion and pollution blackspot south of Gloucester.

Councillor Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton and Northleach) first approached Sir Graham last year to ask what could be done about the high levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) in the area off the A417. Whilst air quality policy falls under EU law, it is up to central government and local authorities to meet targets to reduce air pollution in the interests of public health. Currently the South West is failing to meet its targets to reduce air pollution, particularly when it comes to transport.

Sir Graham wrote to DEFRA about the problem and was told by them that it was down to local councils to work with the Highways Agency to deal with the issue.

Now, the MEP joined Paul to speak to one of the residents whose life is blighted by constant traffic fumes and to see for himself the ongoing traffic gridlock.

The roundabout is in Councillor Hodgkinson’s County Council ward. He commented:

“Residents living near the Air Balloon junction are hugely concerned about the effects of pollution. Their lives have been changed as the road has got busier and busier. In addition, the endless traffic queues are getting steadily worse, not just at peak times but often throughout the day. Try sitting in a queue which backs up for 2 miles south of the roundabout on a Friday afternoon.

This blight on the local economy is costing companies and individuals money and time. It needs urgent fixing. Only a proper solution will do. Residents have been asking for a tunnel or dual carriageway linking Brimpsfield to Brockworth for years but their plea has fallen on deaf ears. If we are serious about building a stronger economy and reducing air pollution this is the way forward.”

Noisy road campaigners make their voices heard

Campaigners are stepping up their bid to reduce noise from the A419/417 dual carriageway in the Cotswolds.

Residents from Baunton and Bagendon with Paul Hodgkinson (centre).

Residents from Baunton and Bagendon with Paul Hodgkinson (centre).

The A419 Noise Action Group (A419NAG) was formed last year in an attempt to get the Highways Agency to replace noisy concrete parts of the road with a quieter surface.

They say the noise along parts of the road has impacted on people’s lives and is getting worse.

Now, group chair Cllr Paul Hodgkinson  has written to Gloucestershire County Council, Cotswold District Council and Wiltshire County Council, asking them to contact DEFRA to try to get the whole length of the A417 and A419 designated as an “Important Area” for noise level purposes:

“This would mean that the Highways Agency would then take action to reduce noise levels on the whole length, not just in very small pockets. Villages like Cerney Wick, Driffield, Down Ampney and Baunton all suffer from noise pollution.”

Paul said in the letter: “I would be most grateful if you could write to Defra requesting that they designate the whole length of this road so that hopefully remedial measures can be undertaken to reduce the noise affecting residents and businesses living and working nearby.

“They have suffered for far too long.”

Three hundred people have responded to the action group’s request for information about their experiences of the road noise. The online survey can be found at http://a419nag.co.uk/take-our-survey/

Bagendon resident Brian Forde is a member of the campaign group. He and his wife Jenny have called for action to be taken to ‘right a wrong’. He said: “All we are campaigning for is something much nearer to the sound levels predicted at the time of the road being built.”

 

Bid to give primary schools a cash lifeline

A call is being made to throw Cotswolds primary schools a cash lifeline.

Matt Fulford (left), Chedworth School Chair of Governors, with Paul Hodgkinson.

Matt Fulford (left), Chedworth School Chair of Governors, with Paul Hodgkinson.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Cotswold District Council) has publicly asked for primary schools to be included in the 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.

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson believes the time is right for the Council to be flexible:

“I asked the Leader of the Council to be bold and generous. His administration currently doesn’t collect waste from primary schools in the district. However, small rural schools like Chedworth, Temple Guiting 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 Chedworth 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 Leader should throw a lifeline to our small schools by including them in waste collections. This would save schools much needed cash.”

At this week’s CDC Council Meeting Cllr Hodgkinson received no commitment from the Council Leader to his suggestion but remains undaunted:

“I will continue to push this very reasonable proposal until the Council sees sense.” 

 

 

When are we getting faster broadband?

Questions are being asked this week over when rural parts of the Cotswolds will be hooked up to faster broadband.

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Gloucestershire County Council has pledged to connect all parts of the county to higher internet speeds by 2015, but many people have still to hear when their area will get the new service.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is concerned that there has been a lack of information for residents, “As I’ve had no full answer back regarding the criteria for the broadband roll out, I’m asking a question in public about it at this week’s County Council meeting. Although some towns have been given a date, many villages haven’t.”

“It’s certainly a hot topic in the Cotswolds at the moment – the lack of fast broadband and the uncertainty over when rural areas in particular will access it. This is also a key issue for some urban areas across Gloucestershire too. People want to know the criteria for the roll out and I have found it hard to get that so am asking a question publicly.

“Given that the economy is taking off again, this is set to be a vital service for sustaining the recovery.”

Here’s the question:

To Mark Hawthorne (GCC Council Leader) : “Rural parts of Gloucestershire suffer from slow broadband connections and often poor mobile phone coverage. Whilst the promised roll out of faster broadband is to be welcomed to build a stronger economy, people in the villages of the Cotswolds and in the forgotten urban areas are still asking when they will benefit from this. What are the specific criteria for deciding which villages and urban areas get hooked up before others?”