Pothole hell

As the winter drags on, there’s one thing you can’t avoid on Gloucestershire’s roads – potholes.

Now, with complaints from residents rising, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is challenging the County Council to sort out the roads properly.

He’s submitted a question which will be answered at the next County Council meeting on 14 February:

‘With the number of potholes at an alarming level on the back of a colder winter, residents are rightly angry at bills for shredded tyres and damaged suspension. We are all spending time swerving to avoid craters in the road, making driving dangerous and unpredictable. New ways of repairing roads are being launched including using plastic instead of tarmac – which not only lasts much longer but reuses plastics which have been much in the news recently as polluting the planet.

“I’m asking highways bosses whether they will be actively looking at using plastics, thereby promoting reuse and stopping this yearly cycle of unsafe road surfaces.

“In my view no amount of warm words from the County Council’s Conservative administration can cover up the dire state of our roads and pavements. Every year we face these unsafe roads at the end of winter yet nothing changes.”

Call for transparency over A417 consultation

Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire are calling for clarity on how local communities will be involved in the development of vital plans to solve the A417 ‘Missing Link’.

The Air Balloon roundabout has huge amounts of traffic and is a notorious blackspot for accidents and pollution

A comprehensive consultation area, involvement of hard to reach groups and briefings for local councils are among the demands being made by councillors Paul Hodgkinson, Steve Jordan and Max Wilkinson.

Gloucestershire County Council has briefed that the consultation for Highways England’s project will take place in the first two months of this year.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • a consultation zone to reflect the national significance of the project – including all of Cheltenham and all nearby  villages in the Cotswolds and Tewkesbury districts
  • a comprehensive programme of consultation events so local people can have their say
  • a thorough strategy for ensuring hard to reach groups can take part, including marginalised communities and time-poor working people
  • briefings for all impacted local councils, including Cheltenham Borough Council and Cotswold District Council
  • involvement for parish councils, including offers of community benefits

So far, the county council has closely guarded the details of the A417 proposals and the accompanying consultation has been delayed.

It is thought people will find out more within the next two months, including potential routes.

However, aside from the county council cabinet members, local councils have so far been kept in the dark.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council Lib Democrats, represents part of the A417 and says there needs to be as wide a consultation as possible: “We’ve waited so long for this road to be built so it’s important that everyone knows what is going on and has a chance to comment on the proposals.”

Cllr Steve Jordan, Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, added: “As a Council we have supported plans to resolve the ‘Missing Link’ from the start. It is important that there is an open and comprehensive consultation to make sure the details are right.”

Max Wilkinson, Cheltenham Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate, said: “This is a vital project for the future of Cheltenham and the wider county, so we’re calling for Highways England and the county council to ensure local people are fully involved.”

“That means a proper schedule of events and publicity to inform everyone about the proposals – including the time-poor working people who use the road to commute to work.”

 

Why is new crossing already closed?

A new zebra crossing in Bourton on the Water has already been closed – and people are asking why.

The crossing, which was opened at the same time as the new Co-Op store in the village, helps residents get across Station Road safely from the shop to homes.

Now, just a month after it was opened, ‘crossing not in use’ signs have gone up and the belisha beacons have been shrouded in orange hoods.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) was surprised and dismayed when he heard the news:

“It is crazy to shut it after it has been open since the new Co-Op was opened weeks ago! I gather it is because the developer who built the new shop didn’t alert the County Council who in turn couldn’t get the proper legal process and consultation in place in order to install it.

“This really is bureaucracy gone mad and people aren’t happy. The crossing is on Station Road and is very well used by residents and students from the Cotswold School. In fact people are still using the crossing and cars are still stopping. Everyone is confused!

“I’ve now contacted highways bosses and have asked them to sort out the situation as quickly as possible.”

New facilities for Bourton-on-the-Water Primary Academy

There’s been a £0.754 million cash injection into improving a Cotswold school. 

Paul Hodgkinson with children at Bourton Primary School’s Trim Trail

Bourton-on-the-Water Primary Academy will use this much needed funding to expand its core facilities. The school will build a brand new purpose built professional kitchen and extend the existing school hall to provide for more children.

This work will allow the school to create space for a new classroom and create additional places for children in the area as new homes are being built.

John Jones, head teacher of Bourton-on-the-Water Primary Academy, said: “With the expansion of the village and the expectation for the school to increase its intake, it is vital that changes to facilities are made to make sure high quality educational provision.

“This funding has allowed us to develop areas that we could not have done without it.”

Gloucestershire County Council is managing the project alongside the school and developer Speller Metcalfe. The improvements are due to be completed by the summer of 2018.

The money comes from s106 funding from developers as part of planning permission. This can be used in the local area for things like school expansions, community facilities or road improvements.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, local member for Bourton-on-the-Water, said: “ There is a need for extra places at Bourton Primary Academy with the village expanding quickly, so this is excellent news for the local community.

“This section 106 funding will help them to get started on their expansion plans, which is something the school has been wanting to do for a while.”

It starts with me

Councillors in Gloucestershire are backing a campaign to promote healthy living which starts this week.

The campaign promotes the importance of regular HIV testing and is co-ordinated by HIV Prevention England (HPE) with support and participation from organisations in the public, statutory and private sectors.

Liberal Democrat County Council Leader, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, has today publicly spoken out on the importance of regular HIV testing as National HIV Testing Week starts on Saturday 18th November.

Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) says that the campaign is all about being proactive with your own health:

“I fully support the ‘It starts with me’ campaign. Data shows that in 2016 there were 10,268 HIV tests carried out in sexual health clinics in Gloucestershire. The actual number of tests is likely to be higher as this figure does not include all HIV tests carried out in GP surgeries in the county, but it is still only 2% of the estimated 492,000 adult population aged 18 and over living in the county.

“I have personally been tested for HIV in the last couple of months and I would strongly encourage people to be tested too.

“I am pleased that my test results came back negative, but it cannot be underestimated that regular testing is key in diagnosing and treating Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) promptly.

“Poor sexual health has a direct impact on an individual’s wellbeing. Many STIs, if left undiagnosed, can lead to severe health complications.

“It is better to be safe than sorry and I would therefore encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested today.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Public Health, Cllr Iain Dobie (Leckhampton & Warden Hill), also said:

“Gloucestershire County Council has responsibility for improving the health of the county’s local population and for providing public health services including sexual health services.

“This includes the testing and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the provision of contraception services.

“The ultimate goal of this campaign is to increase regular HIV testing, which has my full support.”

Want to ask the council an urgent question? Put it in writing! 

The Conservatives at Shire Hall yesterday voted to stop people asking questions on the day of council meetings. 

The decision to change the current set up for ‘oral questions’ was made at the County Council’s Constitution Committee. That’s the body which recommends how the Council operates.

Up until now, members of the public have been able to turn up thirty minutes before the start of a council meeting and ask any question related to council business. Recently questions have been asked about the controversial incinerator, the pay freeze for public sector workers and cycling.

Now, all five Conservatives on the committee have voted to change the deadline for asking oral questions to 12 noon the day before a council meeting – but only if it is deemed ‘urgent’ by the Council’s Chairman. If it’s not urgent then you’ll need to put it in writing a full 7 days before the council meeting!

Conservative councillors claimed that they didn’t have enough time to be able to answer questions properly.

This was challenged by the Lib Dems and Green member on the Committee who voted against the proposal, calling it ‘anti democratic’.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach), voted against the move and says it comes at the worst possible time:

“Shire Hall has been rocked by an appalling OFSTED report into children’s services this year. That report criticised the culture and recommended more openness. What we’ve seen today is a decision which flies in the face of that. It’s a resident’s democratic right to ask questions and this change is certainly not in the spirit of the Council being accessible to everyone.

“The ability to ask verbal questions on the day of full council provides a great deal of flexibility for members of the public. If something is urgent you need to be able to come in and ask it. People live busy lives and with the advent of social media and 24/7 rolling news we all expect quick responses. This is the era of instant news not snail mail.

“The current system provides an opportunity for anyone across the county to come along on the day of council and ask a question that they feel is important to them after the deadline for submitting questions in writing has passed.

“In making this change the Tories are abusing democracy and getting rid of the things which irritate them. Cabinet Members get paid a special responsibility allowance of £18,000 a year and therefore should be able to think on their feet at short notice.

“This is Gloucestershire, not North Korea.”

The decision taken yesterday will now be debated at the next County Council meeting in December. If it is agreed, members of the public will then need to submit an oral question by 12 noon the day before a Council meeting if it is urgent. Written questions remain unchanged in that they need to be submitted 7 days in advance of a Council meeting.

Call for ‘people’s challenge’ to road closure

A councillor has asked residents to contact Gloucestershire County Council en masse in a bid to re-open a well used Cotswolds road.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton & Northleach) is calling for the ‘old A40’ near Northleach to be brought back into use after being closed by the Council in 2015. He has tabled a question at this week’s County Council meeting asking if highways bosses are allowing roads to fall into disuse.

The road links villages like Yanworth, Compton Abdale and Hazleton with Northleach and was used as a more direct route to avoid the congested and busy A40. It was temporarily closed under emergency powers after the Council claimed that an initial high level inspection showed that damage to the road was severe enough to cause public harm.

Now, the County Council has formally published its intention under the Road Traffic Act to extend the road closure indefinitely. People have until just 14 September to let Shire Hall lawyers know what they think about this.

Cllr Hodgkinson is asking for as many people as possible to contact Council lawyers urgently:

“Last year I presented a petition with 500 names on it to the Council Leader calling for the old A40 to be re-opened yet their wishes have been ignored. Highways officers promised me that a full geotechnical report would be produced in April with recommendations on how the road could be mended or even partially opened. To date I have still not received any recommendations or proposals. The Council is dragging its feet and I’m fed up with promises being made which aren’t kept.”

“The road is already falling into disrepair and I have been told it is not a priority to open it quickly – I have no faith that it will be re-opened at all.”

“The only way we can get Council bosses to listen is through a people’s challenge to the legal notice which Shire Hall lawyers have issued asking for the road to be closed indefinitely.

“Having taken advice it’s clear that the Council has failed to establish whether the damage to the road is indeed severe sufficiently enough to close it completely, partially if at all. To date and after frequent requests there is still no formal report outlining the severity of the damage. This may lead to potential grounds to challenge outright the extension in full or reduce the current order. For example, to allow one way traffic flow on one side of the road for cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

“I am told that the use of the Road Traffic Act in circumstances where work has not even started or in fact where there are no firm plans or even a timetable to begin work introduces grounds for a challenge. The fact that it took them over 12 months to commission a survey in the first instance and then fail to provide a full report prior to the issue of the legal notice on August 24 infers that Council bosses are deliberately dragging their feet and behaving unreasonably. A challenge may have the potential to force them into scheduling the works within a definite timetable.”

Anyone wishing to make their views known should contact Carrie Denness, Principal Lawyer, Legal Services, Gloucestershire County Council, Shire Hall, Westgate Street, Gloucester, GL1 2TG.

Email: carrie.denness@gloucestershire.gov.uk.

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.