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.

PaulSchoolMeals

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.”

“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

Schools serve up a success at lunchtime

Schools in the Cotswolds have been praised for dishing up a new initiative to the area’s infants.

PaulSchoolMeals

Since September all 5-7 year olds have been eligible for a free meal at lunchtime for the first time.

Now, as part of National School Meals Week, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds) has thanked schools in the area for making the scheme a success:

“As the second half of the autumn term kicks off, it’s clear that primary schools up and down the Cotswolds have worked hard to make this work.

“All the evidence shows that a hot, healthy meal at lunch time greatly improves the health, behaviour and results of schoolchildren, providing them with their best start in life, enabling every child to fulfil their potential. “I was impressed by the quality of the lunch when I visited Bourton primary school recently – a roast dinner and fruit was the best lunch I’d had in ages!”

Jenny Forde is a governor at North Cerney School and says that she’s been impressed with how smoothly and competently the schools have responded: “It’s great it is to see so many families taking up the free school meal and lovely to see the children all sitting down to eat the same meal much like a family.”

Laura Watts is on the governing team at Sherborne School: “I’m really impressed with how coolly and calmly the local head teachers have gone about providing hot school meals to the very youngest pupils. Ask busy people to get stuff done and they do it, with very little fuss.”

Cllr Hodgkinson, who is also County Councillor for Bourton and Northleach, served up lunches at North Cerney School this week: “The quality of the food was fantastic and I’m glad to have done my bit for School Meals Week and to thank everyone in the school for getting this initiative off the ground.”

Wanted: Local Plan

Fields across the Cotswolds are at risk from unplanned development thanks to the Cotswolds Tories.

That’s the latest news, as the Conservative-run Cotswold District Council (CDC) falls behind around 70% of districts which have a draft ‘Local Plan’ in place – the blueprint which dictates where development should go.

Now, in breaking news, the Council has also been criticised by planning inspectors for failing to have enough housing in the pipeline to satisfy demand (called a ‘5 year housing supply’).

Planning bosses in Bristol overturned a decision not to allow new housing in Fairford by waving through another large development there despite opposition locally. Their main reason was CDC’s lack of a proper housing supply.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Prospective MP for the Cotswolds, is leading the fight to protect our countryside:

“When you consider that our area is unique and special, it beggars belief that the current MP and those who run our local Council have allowed this situation to happen.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) is fighting to protect our countryside

Paul Hodgkinson (right) is fighting to protect our countryside

“They knew years ago that a new Local Plan was needed but have put developers in the driving seat by leaving the Cotswolds exposed.

“Instead of allowing – where practical – small-scale developments to be built in villages across the district which have asked for them, the Tories have left the gate wide open.

“Now, our unique communities like Bourton, Stow, Tetbury and Moreton, as well as Cirencester, are faced with lots of extra houses but with no real improvement in services.”

“Whilst thousands of holiday homes have been built in our area by CDC, the housing crisis gets worse. The Cotswolds has the biggest gap between wages and house prices outside London, so something has to change.

“The emphasis now should be on affordable homes in the right places and where they are needed.

“That will help people live near to their families and friends instead of being forced to move away.”

Bring on Le Tour Cotswolds!

Two leading county figures are calling for a Cotswolds stage in a future Tour De France.

Le Tour Cotswolds

With the country gripped by cycling fever as the famous race winds its way around Yorkshire, a bold bid could mean we see the same scenes in Gloucestershire soon.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has joined forces with Lib Dem Leader in the Cotswolds Paul Hodgkinson in writing to Tour organisers. They are inviting cycling bosses to consider having a Cotswolds leg of the Tour in the next few years.

Cllr Hodgkinson, would-be MP for the Cotswolds and a keen cyclist, says the area’s unique scenery would provide a perfect backdrop to the race:

“My vision is for the Tour to start in Chipping Campden, racing down the Fosse Way through Moreton, Stow and Bourton before going through the historic towns of Northleach and Cirencester. Moving on to Tetbury and the hills of Minchinhampton what a superb advert for the Cotswolds this would be.

“The potential for tourist business is enormous. Shops in Yorkshire have already seen takings going through the roof whilst 1.5 million people lined the route. There’s no reason why we can’t replicate and better what is happening so successfully in Yorkshire right now.”

Mr Horwood feels Cheltenham would be a fantastic location to end the race:

“The Promenade lends itself to a great sprint to the finish line. Can you imagine the boost to the town it would give? The TV images would provide a real show case for the area and be a great event for us all to enjoy.

“With 3 billion TV viewers tuning in it could give the county a tremendous boost and really show off its character.”

In the letter to Tour organisers, the two men will invite them to see the area for themselves and understand the benefits of ‘Le Tour Cotswolds’.

Royal Mail says no to war hero tribute

There’s disappointment in Bourton on the Water after Royal Mail bosses refused to commemorate a war hero.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with John Cork

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with John Cork

John Cork, chairman of Bourton Royal British Legion, wanted greater recognition for Major General Dudley Johnson, who was born in the village and was one of only three men in Gloucestershire to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Major Johnson served in World War One, which is being commemorated this year on its 100th anniversary.

Mr Cork thought painting the village post box in VC colours would have made a fitting tribute. He contacted Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Glos County Council, Bourton & Northleach) who wrote to the Royal Mail asking for their support.

Cllr Hodgkinson was disappointed at the response:

“The Royal Mail have said no to this wonderful idea. It saddens me that they can’t allow this simple thing to commemorate a war hero’s achievement. Bourton is an iconic Cotswolds village and many tourists would see this special post box and ask what the different colour meant. 

“They did it for Olympic gold medallists and so they should do the same for Victoria Cross holders in this centenary year.”  he added.

“In fact, this could happen right across the country to recognise the special contribution a group of people made in fighting for Britain.”

Cllr Hodgkinson said that he would be contacting the Ministry of Defence to push the idea forward:

“Someone has to see sense over this. A bit of flexibility from the Royal Mail would be the right thing to do.”

 

Cash helps village halls

Three Cotswolds groups have been given County Council cash to kick-start community improvements by sprucing up their buildings.

Paul Hodgkinson with members of the Victoria Hall committee, Bourton

Paul Hodgkinson (front left) with members of the Victoria Hall committee, Bourton

The council set aside £600,000 in its Community Building Improvement Grants scheme to help organisations develop their properties and equipment and so provide better services to support the local community.

Known as ComBI Grants, the money has been given to village halls and buildings in Bourton, Withington and North Cerney.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) said: “These grants recognise all the vital work that the Cotswolds’ community groups are doing locally.

“This initiative supports three buildings in the Cotswolds which are a focal point – the iconic Victoria Rooms in Bourton, the village hall in Withington and the Memorial Hall in North Cerney.

“I’m so pleased that these excellent buildings have got extra cash to help them thrive.”

Earmarked for everything from new flooring to heating systems, the grants were awarded to capital projects that enable community groups to generate additional income or reduce their costs – and make it possible to do more to develop active communities.

Each organisation had to show it was not for private profit, it wanted to use the money for a new project and not a retrospective one, and it had a clear timeline for the improvements.

 

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.”

Lib Dems choose Cotswold Leader to be prospective MP

Cotswold Liberal Democrats have selected their high profile leader on Cotswold District Council as their new Parliamentary Candidate.

PPC group pic

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson’s selection comes just four months after he stunned the Conservatives by becoming the first Lib Dem to win the so-called ‘true blue’ seat of Bourton and Northleach in this May’s county council elections.

The 51-year-old, who has lived in the Cotswolds for 25 years, will be up against the Cotswolds’ Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who has held the seat since 1992.

“I have made this beautiful area my home and set up my small business here,” he said. “Residents asked me to stand after seeing my record as a councillor and I will be the voice for the many who feel disconnected from decisions made in Cirencester and at Shire Hall in Gloucester. I want to give our area a real voice, actively speaking up for it rather than seeing some MPs motivated by their own pockets.”

Cllr Hodgkinson was first elected to Cotswold District Council for the Churn Valley in 2007 and has held the rural seat since then. He became leader of the council’s Lib Dems four years ago, going on to steer the opposition group to the party’s best results nationally in 2011 when they gained seven seats to take their total to 12.

A successful local businessman with a strong record of campaigning for local people, he has fought against high parking charges, led road safety campaigns and challenged unethical behaviour by public figures in the Cotswold Water Park fraud scandal.

The news was welcomed by Cirencester mayor Joe Harris who was mentored by Cllr Hodgkinson after he became the country’s youngest district councillor at the age of 19.

“The Cotswolds needs a change of representation at Westminster and Paul is the best man for the job,” said Cllr Harris. “Under his leadership we have been standing up for Cotswolds people on the big issues that matter  – tackling the cost of living in our area, working to sort out transport problems and protecting the unique character of the district. We need someone as our MP who can take the case to Parliament and get some action.”

Cllr Hodgkinson is planning to build on the dramatic swing to the Liberal Democrats across the Cotswolds which saw them gain three seats in May’s County Council elections.

“There is a demand for change and  growing disillusionment with the performance of the Tories locally, right through from district and county level to our MP’s track record in Parliament,” he said.

“It is shameful that our MP has done little to address the fact that the Cotswolds suffers from some of the highest rural house prices in the country coupled with low average wages.

“Those in power have concentrated on turning the area into a second home haven for privileged outsiders while ignoring the pressing needs of working local families. That is something I will be fighting to change.

“Our progress at district and county level has already shaken the Tories and we will be working hard to make the 2015 general election the next major upset.

“You can really feel the breath of fresh air that our new councillors have brought to local politics and it is gratifying that the voters have noticed. Mr Clifton-Brown has had 22 years to get things fixed in the constituency and has been a part-time MP. I will do everything I can to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in the Cotswolds and give this area the effective and energetic representation it so badly needs at Westminster.”