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

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.”

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.”

 

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.

ruralbroadband_1503282c

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?”

Call for urgent action on notorious traffic blackspot

The saga of traffic gridlock at the notorious Air Balloon roundabout in the Cotswolds took another turn this week.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is calling for urgent action at the Air Balloon roundabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson says enough is enough at the Air Balloon roundabout (photo courtesy of Wilts & Glos Standard)

Gloucestershire County Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee has written to the Highways Agency asking for progress to be made on the A417 ‘Missing Link’ and finding a solution to the traffic and pollution problems.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) is a member of that committee and helped to create the letter with other councillors on the committee.

He led the campaign earlier this year against a proposal to stop drivers turning right at the roundabout and now wants a long term solution:

“After the debacle of the ‘no right turn’ suggestion earlier this year, we are left with ever-increasing traffic jams at the Air Balloon, air pollution issues and a blot on the local economy.

“What this letter is doing is asking the Highways Agency to come up with a proper solution and to engage with councillors and residents. We have waited too long and patience has run out.

“One of the residents at the Air Balloon has moved out, having sold their property for a song. They had had enough of bad health caused by the pollution. The Highways Agency has a duty to act quickly for the sake of the other resident who is left there.”

The County’s Environment Committee is hoping for a positive response to the latest initiative.