Bid to lower voting age

Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire are putting the spotlight on lowering the voting age to 16.

Both locally and nationally, the Liberal Democrats have campaigned for years to allow 16 years the right to vote. They were also at the forefront of laying down an amendment in Parliament back in 2015 that would have given 16 year olds a vote in last year’s EU referendum.

Lowering the voting age to 16 has also been a campaign for the UK Youth Parliament for several years with over 100,000 young people in November last year voting it as their top campaigning priority.

Now the county’s Lib Dems feel this issue should be high-up on the political agenda.

Group Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) is calling for 16 year olds to get the vote. He will be leading a debate at Shire Hall at the County Council Meeting on Wednesday 13 September and said:

“For years young people have shown an active interest in politics and yet when it comes to the ballot box their voice remains silent. We saw more under 24’s voting than before in this year’s General Election too.

“I know many young people who have very strong opinions on a wide variety of issues. It is ridiculous that in spite of all the things 16 and 17 year olds are legally able to do, they still do not have the right to vote in elections. Yet they can get married, work, pay tax and fight for their country. It doesn’t make any sense.

“In last year’s EU referendum, we saw unfair restrictions placed on those that actually have the longest stake in the future of this country, it wasn’t right that 16 and 17 year olds were denied a vote in a decision that has altered our nation’s course.

“After hearing from our county’s representatives of the Youth Parliament about this particular issue it made me realise that it really is about time 16 and 17 year olds are given the right to vote in all elections. This is about giving a voice to young people in our country.

“I hope elected members across the chamber will support my motion and with one voice we can show all six Gloucestershire MPs that they have our backing in lowering the voting age to 16.”

Gloucestershire’s Youth Parliament representatives, George Richmond for Cotswold & Stroud and Harriet Hards for Cheltenham & Tewkesbury also said:

“It is deeply pleasing to see that votes for 16 will be debated at the County Council meeting in September. This will both hopefully enthuse many young people in Gloucestershire but also bring the wider debate to discussion.

“We look forward to hearing the result and hope all political parties will support this motion.”

ENDS

Cricket club on front foot with new pavilion

Bourton Vale Cricket Club will benefit from a £1,000 investment in facilities after it received funding from the County Council’s children’s activity fund.

The cricket club has received support from the English Cricket Board (ECB) to build a new pavilion on the site of the existing building which has been there for 90 years.

The children’s activity fund has £5,000 available for each county councillor. Cllr Paul Hodgkinson backed the bid and says that the club is busy fundraising as it looks to improve facilities to help play carry on as a vital part in the local community:

“The improvements will allow Bourton Vale CC to accommodate other sports clubs in the area, particularly in the winter, as well as provide a base for the club’s thriving youth sections to train.

“Helping this fantastic cricket club was an easy decision. A host of young people and children use the facilities and are helping to make the club a vibrant and active place for Bourton and nearby villages.

“I’ve been impressed at the fundraising that the club is doing to have a brand new club house in place for next year’s season. The county council’s contribution is a start and is aimed at getting more young people active in their community.”

‘No Crash’ group fights for safer roads

A road safety group called ‘No Crash’ has been lobbying for road safety measures. It has been chaired by County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson and includes residents and parish councillors from Coberley, Shipton, Andoversford, Notgrove and Whittington.

Paul with Andoversford Primary School students at the opening of the School Safety Zone in 2015

The group has successfully lobbied for a School Safety Zone in Andoversford and for action to be taken against dangerous overtaking on the A436.

Now, the group has met again in June with residents and Paul says that further action will be taken to promote road safety:

“Parents with children at Andoversford Primary School have repeatedly voiced real safety concerns when walking to school along the busy roads with narrow pavements. A traffic survey was done by Glos Highways and showed that although most people were obeying the 30mph speed limit a significant minority weren’t. Not only that but even less drivers were taking notice of the flashing 20mph signs during peak school times.”

Glos Highways have now taken the concerns away to look at various options to slow traffic. Shipton already has a thriving ‘Community Speedwatch’ team of volunteers who are trained to check vehicle speeds. The aim is to get the same in place in Andoversford – if you’re interested please contact the Parish Council there.

 

 

Special meeting to be held over “shocking” Ofsted report

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have secured an extraordinary meeting of the County Council after a damning Ofsted report was published rating the county’s children’s services as ‘inadequate’.  

The forty-one page report conducted between 27 February and 23 March 2017 found “serious and widespread failures for children in need of help and protection” and “serious concerns about the integrity of the current senior leadership team”.

The overall conclusion by Ofsted that Children’s services in Gloucestershire are ‘inadequate’  came from examining the following areas:

·         Children who need help and protection – Inadequate

·         Children looked after and achieving permanence – Requires improvement

·         Adoption performance – Good

·         Experiences and progress of care leavers – Requires improvement

·         Leadership, management and governance – Inadequate.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) says the report is shocking and a massive blow to those who are responsible for the protection of children:

“This is an utterly damning report on the state of local children’s services in Gloucestershire. It is a story of failure.

“Ofsted has graded two out of five areas as ‘inadequate’ and another two areas as ‘requires improvement’. It is alarming that the report states that “senior leaders have not sufficiently prioritised or improved the quality of social work practice since services for children in need of help and protection were judged inadequate in 2011, and the quality of services to children and families has now deteriorated significantly”.

“The report goes on to say that “management oversight is inadequate…”, that there are “significant weaknesses in social work practice” and that “children in need and child protection plans are not sufficiently clear or robust.”

“We have seen several ‘inadequate’ inspection reports across the country where there have been calls for resignations and requests made to establish independent peer review boards.

“Here, we know that heads are already rolling as a result of this report with the sudden resignation of one and the quick retirement of another senior officer within the department. It is not surprising as this is a truly awful and deeply concerning report. The Council’s leadership now need to consider their own positions.

“Approximately 124,799 children and young people under the age of 18 years live in Gloucestershire. At 28th February 2017, 7,319 children had been identified as needing specialist children’s services, and 604 children are being looked after by this local authority, these children deserve better.

“The Council’s leaders need to explain how this has happened under their watch.”

Residents come out in force to talk about crime in Bourton

 

Over the last 6 months Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been approached by a lot of residents about the problem of anti-social behaviour in Bourton on the Water.

These issues range from a group of children and young adults threatening other people, swearing, drinking and taking drugs as well as littering around the village.

As a result of this he first invited the Police & Crime Commissioner Martin Surl to come to Bourton in February to hear for himself the challenges the village faces. Surl heard from residents first hand and recognised the need to take action to sort this out. Now, we’ve had a follow up to this meeting in May.

Paul chaired the recent meeting at the Community Centre and 70 residents turned out to voice their continued worries over crime. In particular, the police were told that more had to be done to show that anti social behaviour is unacceptable and can’t be tolerated. There were heartfelt examples from people whose lives are being negatively impacted.

The police inspector for the area, Karen Ellis, has committed to working with local people to get to grips with the situation. Key members of the community will be working with the police in the next few months to help bring the issues under control. Individuals who have been causing problems are being identified and further action will be taken. But the police do need people to come forward with specific examples otherwise they can’t act. The number to ring is 101.

CCTV in the village could be one way of collecting evidence and the Parish Council explained that it was expensive but that they were still considering this – an option here is to look for grants to pay for this.

On a plus point, the Parish Council and others have successfully launched a new youth club. Numbers have been increasing and Around 30 young people came along to the first sessions and this is a really positive way of heading off any future issues with anti-social behaviour.

There were also commitments by the police to keep monitoring and sorting out littering, drug use and vandalism at specific locations.

On a different note, the issue of speeding traffic came up despite the cut to a 20mph limit recently. The Community Speedwatch team have been active after re-forming and will continue to do what they can to alert drivers including activity in different parts of the village. Better signage will also be introduced by Highways.

Finally, good news that an ATM will be installed at the existing Co-op store from 9 June following the ram raid on Lloyds Bank in April. The bravery of Tony Hughes who single handedly stopped the cash being stolen was acknowledged at the meeting with the biggest round of applause of the night.

There’ll be a follow up meeting with the police and Deputy PCC in October to make sure that we keep the momentum going on addressing these issues. Details of that meeting will be publicised nearer the time.

Thank you!

In the early hours of Friday May 5, Paul Hodgkinson was re-elected to Gloucestershire County Council.

First elected to the Council in 2013 for the Bourton on the Water and Northleach division with a majority of 59 votes, Cllr Hodgkinson thanked everyone for their support after his re-election:

“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for me. To be re-elected with 1,000 more votes than last time means alot to me. I can’t believe the majority has gone up to 784 votes!

“My commitment now is as it’s always been – to work hard all year round, keep in touch and listen to what people want.”

The full result was:

Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem) – 2365 votes

Mark MacKenzie-Charrington (Conservative) – 1681 votes.

Turnout – 47%.

 

 

Call for Road Safety Champion

This week at Shire Hall a proposal had been made for the creation of a Road Safety Champion for Gloucestershire.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with residents and councillors from along the A436

Latest figures reveal that the number of killed and seriously injured people in the county last year was 207. But, the County Council has set itself a ‘target’ of 141. The number of killed and seriously injured older people was 48. This was double the County Council’s own ‘target’. This comes on the back of equally disturbing figures over the last few years.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson questioned the current Cabinet Member responsible for road safety about what the Council was actually doing to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.

Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) said:

“Any road accident is certainly one too many and although I am pleased that over the last 10 years casualties on our county’s roads have reduced, the county council target has nevertheless been consistently missed in the last 3 years. Recently, rural roads such as the A429 Fosse Way have seen a major increase in deaths. Other roads in Gloucestershire including the A48 in the Forest of Dean have also seen regular road safety issues.

“I have therefore called for a Road Safety Champion who will work with the Council’s road safety team focusing specifically on this alarming trend and ultimately to save lives.

“This Champion would be a County Councillor who would really tackle this problem and provide a focal point for reducing accidents.

“We hope our request is reasonable and that whoever runs the administration after May’s elections will seriously consider the creation of this new role to promote road safety and make a decision on this as soon as possible.”

Take control back of our roads

Liberal Democrats have announced bold plans to bring the county’s roads and footways back under the control of the County Council.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) has pledged to look at how the county’s highway services can be taken back in-house rather than extend the existing contract with Amey.

Since April 2014, Amey has taken responsibility for managing and maintaining Gloucestershire’s highway network, which includes nearly 10,000km of roads, as well as providing winter maintenance services and delivering highway improvement schemes.

The contract, which runs for 5 years with possible extensions up to 11 years, is currently being reviewed by the county’s Highways Commissioning Team. Councillors are due to decide in the early summer whether to extend the contract for a further 3 years or to terminate it in 2018/19. Due to the length of time it takes to re-tender the highways contract the decision to extend  it needs to be taken between 18 and 24 months prior to the end of the 5 year period.

Amey’s performance over the years has been regularly criticised by both the Liberal Democrats and by parish councils and residents. Targets for filling potholes were repeatedly missed by the private contractor until recently.

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson said:

“There is an unfounded acceptance that private companies such as Amey are cheaper and more efficient than the public sector. Many councils up and down the country are however taking public services back in-house. There are substantial cost savings being achieved as a result of ‘insourcing’ and those councils that have brought services back in-house are delivering higher quality services.

“In 2011, Cumbria, Ealing and Rotherham all brought their highways back in-house. Cumbria’s reason was simply to allow greater control and ability to deliver efficiency savings. Councils have fallen out of love with outsourcing vital services and fed up with private contractors failing to deliver. Amey is certainly no exception.

“Right from the beginning of the Amey contract, we saw many so called ‘teething troubles’, but problems escalated.

“The teething problems have become a nagging toothache requiring much needed treatment. We should not be railroaded into thinking that extending the contract with Amey or retendering and mobilising a new contract with another private contractor are our only options.

“I have serious misgivings in extending the contract with Amey and have therefore pledged to ask council officers to work on the option of bringing our highways back in-house if the Lib Dems form an administration at Shire Hall after the May local elections.

“Let’s take back control of our roads.”

Speed gates come to the Churn Valley

Road safety has been an ongoing concern for residents who live along the A435 in the Churn Valley.

key_northcerneygates

In particular the speed of traffic going through North Cerney. There have been regular speed checks by the police and community which show a small but persistent number of drivers exceeding the 40mph limit.

The centre of the village sees pedestrians including school children crossing the road to catch buses, a busy junction into the village and accessing the pub and primary school.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson discussed these issues with North Cerney Parish Council last year and – after meeting Highways on site – agreed to jointly fund a set of 4 gates at either end of the village. These gates are a feature of some other villages in the Cotswolds and the aim is to alert drivers to the fact they’re entering a village environment and a lower speed limit.

The gates have been jointly funded by Paul with the small pot of money he gets each year to fund highways projects, North Cerney Parish Council and Gloucestershire Highways.

The good news is that all 4 gates are now in place.

Further up the A435 heading to Cheltenham, two trial gates have been installed approaching the turning into Rendcomb. The aim of these is once again to slow traffic after numerous complaints about difficulties in exiting the junction there safely. These gates have also been jointly funded with Rendcomb Parish Council.

Council rakes in millions from parking

Nearly £10 million profit has been produced from council parking operations over the last five years in Gloucestershire.  

car-parking-fines

The figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats also show just under £2.5million was made both in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

Reference will be made to this huge sum of money by the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) in a question directed to parking bosses at next Wednesday’s County Council Cabinet Meeting.

In commenting, Cllr. Hodgkinson said:

“Next week, I’ll be challenging the Cabinet Member for parking to provide me with details of exactly what this surplus in parking has been spent on over the last few years.

“I’m aware that any profit generated must by law be spent on transport-related activities. It would however be good to see precisely those things that have been funded from money created from parking charges and penalty notices.

“Nearly £10 million is indisputably a huge amount of money. Gloucestershire was ranked 79 out of 353 councils in England with the largest parking surpluses. It could and should have been seen as making a very real difference in Gloucestershire, but I’m at a loss to see exactly what benefit this money has actually had. I’m dissatisfied and frustrated that the roads across the county are still dreadful. Where has this massive profit gone?

“The Conservatives have had 12 years in power on Gloucestershire County Council to get this right and they’ve simply failed to sort out the roads and pavements despite this windfall.

“I am saddened that we haven’t seen significant road improvements reflecting this significant sum of money generated from people who have paid for parking charges and penalty notices.

“Only a total change of approach will end the vicious cycle of potholed roads and ever increasing parking profits.”