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Council rakes in millions from parking

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

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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.”

Council pays out thousands of pounds for pothole damage

Nearly £18,000 of taxpayers’ money has been paid out to drivers for pothole damage in Gloucestershire.

PaulPothole2016

The figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire County Council show that £17,774 has been paid in compensation to motorists for pothole-related damage over the last three years.

Now, the county’s Liberal Democrats have expressed bitter disappointment with the Conservative controlled Council for not properly investing in the area’s roads. 

Liberal Democrat Shadow for Highways, Cllr. Chris Coleman (St Mark’s and St Peter’s) said:

“A total of 1,713 unsurprisingly annoyed drivers made claims for compensation between November 2013 and November 2016. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone, whether they are motorists, councils or taxpayers.

“People already have to fork out so much to drive a car, the least they should expect is that their vehicle doesn’t get ruined by a bumpy road.

“Thousands of pounds are now being spent on pay-outs that could have been invested instead in fixing our roads.

“Roads should be fixed quickly so this compensation does not have to be paid out in the first place.

“It is about time the Conservatives sorted out our county roads for good.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) added:

“The volume of claims is large for A roads. I’m not at all surprised given the correspondence I get regularly from constituents who have damaged their cars driving through potholes.

“The spike in claims in Spring 2016 reflects the massive backlog in repairs which GCC’s roads contractor Amey was experiencing. It also came at the end of a very wet winter when so many potholes appeared.

“It highlights a failure by the Conservatives who have been responsible for roads in the county for the last 12 years. They need to invest more in road maintenance and improve the quality of repairs. It is the number one thing people raise with me and it has to improve.”

Nationally a total of £12 million has been paid out over the last four years on pothole compensation, with an average payment per person of £650.

500 back call to re-open road

Recently Cllr Paul Hodgkinson launched a petition to re-open a road connecting Northleach and Compton Abdale.

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The road is referred to as ‘the Old A40’ locally as it was the original main road linking Cheltenham to Northleach before the Northleach by pass (A40) was built.

This Wednesday 7 December Paul formally presented the petition at the County Council meeting in Shire Hall.

The petition has attracted just under 500 names – a large number for a local issue.

Cllr Hodgkinson told the council meeting:

“The old A40 runs between the A40 at Puesdown and the Old Prison at Northleach and has been well used by local people as an alternative route to Northleach and to villages such as Yanworth and Compton Abdale. It was closed in 2015 as a result of a wall collapsing and the ground subsiding.

“Whilst we all understand that it takes time to investigate and remedy a situation, I believe that enough is enough and that County Council highways bosses must now act and provide a timetable for the road to be re-opened. It’s now 15 months since the road has been closed and the long-promised geotechnical survey of the road won’t even happen until early next year.

“That survey is key to finding out what’s wrong with the road and for Highways then to decide what action to take.

“I’m pleased so many people have supported my campaign to re-open the road. It’s been shut for far too long and we need to see something happening. People pay their council tax and expect roads to be usable.

“I hope this petition will put pressure on Highways to act quickly.”

The wording of the petition is: ‘We the undersigned call on Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Highways to re-open the old A40 as quickly as possible.’

Call for lower speed limit

Residents have called for greater road safety in the village of Perrotts Brook near Cirencester.

SR_8557_001     Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Cllr Nigel Robbins and Theo Hare,centre right, with copies of the petition to reduce the speed limit on Welsh Way at Perrott's Brook with some of the local residents

A petition of 70 names, gathered by local businessman Theo Hare, lobbies Gloucestershire Highways to cut the speed limit amidst concerns over the ways vehicles drive through the village.

Now, County Councillors Paul Hodgkinson and Nigel Robbins have backed residents and will be presenting the petition to December’s Council meeting.

Cllr Hodgkinson says the current system of speed limits is bizarre: “You have a situation at the moment where drivers are legally limited to 50mph on the busy main road between Cheltenham and Cirencester but in the narrow lanes of the village they can drive faster!

“It’s no wonder that residents complain of near-misses and feel unsafe as they walk and cycle.

“What we need is for Highways to listen and do something about this strange anomaly. People’s safety has to take priority and it’s totally reasonable to ask drivers to slow down a bit as they go through the village.”

 

Fight to keep popular newsagent

Residents in Bourton on the Water have expressed anger at moves to oust the village’s remaining newsagent shop.

Newsagent protest

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is campaigning to save the ‘community hub’ in the iconic tourist centre, encouraging residents to file objections to an application by the shop’s landlord.

The Cotswold District Council planning website has received 100 responses from local people who oppose the proposed conversion of the store into a fast food take away.

Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents Bourton and Northleach on the County Council, said: “The thought of losing the one remaining newsagent is really bad news.

“I’m very angry about this as Bourton has expanded hugely in recent years with more houses being built at the moment.

“We have 4,000 people in the village and there’s just one newsagent left to serve the community.”

Cllr Hodgkinson doesn’t feel Bourton needs another food outlet as there are already 35 in the village.

He added that neighbours meet each other on their daily visits to the newsagents and also buy a range of other goods:

“It has become a social hub and one which people do use and value. Let’s hope common sense prevails and that the newsagent can stay.”

A protest outside the newsagents attracted 50 local people who watched as Cllr Paul Hodgkinson and other councillors handed a letter of objection to the landlord at his home in the centre of Bourton.

Council misses recycling targets for last 4 years

Latest figures show that Gloucestershire is binning more waste than ever but too much is going to landfill.

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Now, the Liberal Democrats are calling for the County Council to get its recycling shoes on and start hitting waste targets. At a recent Council meeting they called on Shire Hall bosses to find ways to boost the amount we all leave out on the kerbside which can be used again.

The latest figures show that county-wide recycling rates are averaging 48%. That’s 5% less than the target of 53% which the Council has set itself.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach), Leader of the county Lib Dems, led the debate and says that the Council’s administration needs to address the disappointing figures:

“When targets are set then every effort has to be made to meet them. This is serious stuff as we’re protecting our environment when we recycle more. The 53% target hasn’t been met for the last four years. The Council’s target is to recycle/compost at least 60% of its household waste by 2020 with an aspirational target of 70% by 2030. It clearly has a long way to go to achieve these goals.

“Sadly, across the county some of the recycling figures are low. In 2015/2016, Stroud was at the bottom with only 31% of their household waste being sent for recycling whilst Gloucester could only achieve a 37% rate. The Cotswolds was the only district that had met the 53% recycling target achieving a 58% rate last year, although even this has been falling from its peak.

“In the council chamber I called for a real uplift in recycling rates across the county. I agree with Gloucestershire’s ‘Waste Core Strategy’ in that we need to make sure that reusing and composting should be made as simple as possible and that people and businesses can easily recycle on the kerbside or at waste sites.

“There are some real differences across the county when it comes to dealing with trash. In some areas councils collect drink cartons whilst in others people have no choice but to send them to landfill. And what about metals and textiles? There’s so much scope here to help us all recycle more.

“In the meantime, I’ll be insisting that the Cabinet Member at Shire Hall responsible for waste commissions an urgent report to look at ways the county’s recycling rates can be improved and for this to be discussed by all councillors in December.

“Talking rubbish for some might not be very interesting, but how we dispose of it is an important issue, especially now that this Conservative administration has committed us to a massive incinerator at Javelin Park – we can’t let that be an excuse to fail to recycle.”

Missing Link work won’t start before 2021

Construction of the notorious ‘Missing Link’ at the Air Balloon roundabout is unlikely to start for another 5 years.

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

That’s the latest word from roads bosses who are managing the project.

In a letter to the Leader of Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Highways England have confirmed that the project is still ongoing despite changes in Government but that any hope of construction work starting soon has gone.

Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) wrote to the new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in July asking him to re-commit to the project following the Brexit vote. Mr Grayling didn’t answer himself but passed the letter to Highways England to respond.

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417, says he’s happy that the work is still planned but disappointed it is taking so long to happen:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for our county for more than 20 years. It’s now heavily congested at all times of day. Recently we have seen weekly incidents including broken down lorries and yet more accidents.

“Whilst I’m glad that fixing this urgent problem is still on the agenda, the news that work won’t even start for another 5 years is frustrating. This road is a real drag on Gloucestershire’s economy.

“My other concern is that Highways England say in their letter that funding for all schemes is reviewed regularly. Does that mean the Government could pull the plug if it wanted to?

“I will keep the pressure up on the new Transport Minister. It’s a shame he hasn’t given his personal commitment to the scheme and has not responded to my request for him to visit and see the issues for himself.”

Highways England are currently working to identify a number of different options to solve the issues on the A417. They say that they will be engaging with local people later this year.

Call for action over shocking levels of deprivation

New figures show big differences across Gloucestershire when it comes to hardship and access to services. 

Rural Negative Word Cloud

At the latest County Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee, councillors were presented with alarming figures showing how the county fares compared to other parts of England. And it made for uncomfortable reading as council bosses prepare their budgets for next year.

The figures come from an ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation’ and show levels of ‘deprivation’ for each part of Gloucestershire.

Areas are ranked from least deprived to most deprived, based on different measures including income, employment, education skills and training, health deprivation and disability, crime and disorder and barriers to housing and services.

The picture shows Gloucester and the Forest of Dean as ranked higher for deprivation compared to Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, the Cotswolds and Stroud.

But parts of the county usually seen as wealthier also show surprising results says Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton and Northleach):

“There are pockets of people in the Cotswolds who face barriers to housing and services. I wasn’t expecting to see rural areas feature so highly in the deprivation league table.

“The Cotswolds is often seen as a playground for the rich and famous, but behind this veneer there are shocking levels of isolation and below average wages. Places like Chedworth now have few buses, sky high house prices and bad mobile phone coverage. For the more vulnerable this is a real issue which is not often talked about.

“Gloucestershire is made up of six unique districts; I’m appalled by these new figures. The Conservatives who have run the Council for 11 years have a responsibility to step up to the plate, take real action to address this situation and make sure there’s a level playing field for accessing services in our county. I want to see them come up with a plan to tackle these inequalities.”

At next month’s Council meeting, Cllr Hodgkinson will be asking the Leader of the County Council how the administration plans to address these new figures.

Call for new Transport Secretary to confirm commitment to ‘Missing link’

Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Council Group, Paul Hodgkinson, has today sent an open letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

The letter requests the new Transport Secretary and the newly formed post-Referendum Government continue with the commitment shown by the previous Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP to fix the ‘Missing Link’ on the A417.

Cllr. Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout, said that:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for Gloucestershire for more than 20 years. It is often very heavily congested seeing more than 34,000 vehicles a day and there are frequent tragic accidents with more than 340 casualties in the past 15 years.

“Local residents, campaigners and elected representatives have for decades been lobbying both local and national government to find a solution. It is well known for it being a significant bottleneck and has been found to have the worst average vehicle delay of all strategic routes in the South West.

The letter continued by saying that:

“Since the start of January 2014, I’ve been delighted to see support gathering pace for government to fund the £255 million A417 loop, which is undoubtedly the only viable option to fix the ‘Missing Link’.

“In April 2014, I was particularly pleased that support was given by the Highways Agency in recognising local concerns about the route following stakeholder events in the region and highlighting the issue in its route strategy.

In making reference to the support of the former Transport Secretary, Cllr. Hodgkinson also said:

“The former Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP visited the A417 ‘Missing Link’ two years ago on Wednesday 16th July 2014 and was extremely supportive of the scheme.

“Funding has been secured by Highways England (HE) for the next stage of the A417 ‘Missing Link’ scheme development, but there’s still along way to go. We would like you to be equally committed as your predecessor, if not more supportive and would very much like to see construction starting before Highways England’s issued timeline for the scheme development, which identifies that construction will not start until summer 2021.

“The Air Balloon roundabout, which is a key part of the missing link section, is forecasted to be running 30 per cent over capacity by 2026. Already the road is congested and dangerous and needless to say will be worse before the anticipated summer 2021 construction date.

Cllr. Hodgkinson in asking to reaffirm the new Transport Secretary’s funding commitment to the ‘Missing Link’ also offered an invitation to the Rt Hon Chris Grayling saying:

“I believe Highways England (HE) will be undertaking an engagement event in Autumn 2016 to explain what will happen next and we would be delighted if you could perhaps join us to show your support?

Traffic warden contract should be parked!

 

Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to extend Gloucestershire County Council’s parking enforcement contract with APCOA.

Traffic wardens

The decision was taken last week by the County Council’s Conservative Cabinet. The contract to enforce on-street parking was due to end in 2018. Today’s decision means that APCOA will now be policing Gloucestershire’s streets for an extra two years until 2020.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of proper consultation undertaken prior to making the decision and the poor performance of APCOA in enforcing residents parking zones in many areas.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) commented: “It concerns me that the Conservative administration has not allowed the time to consult people properly about this. On an issue as important as parking extensive work needs to be undertaken to get the best deal for taxpayers.

“That is why we don’t want the current contract extended at this stage. It feels like this decision has been slipped in through the back door without effective scrutiny.

“If the administration had taken the time to speak to local residents and councillors they would know for themselves that the contract should not be extended at this point.

“Residents’ concerns about parking are not being heard. Many people pay lots of money for permits every year, yet they hardly ever see traffic wardens in their street. I know of more than one example where cars have been parked for long periods without any permit.

“There needs to be a level playing field. In some streets there are high levels of activity from APCOA but in others they are rarely seen. Many residents play by the rules in purchasing a permit, they should expect to be able to park near their homes. They should also expect that others who don’t have permits are properly dealt with. “