Pavement fixed in Bourton

A broken pavement which was causing problems for pedestrians has been fixed.

The footway, along Victoria Street and heading toward Letch Hill Drive, is well used but was a challenge for elderly people in particular.

David Hind, who lives along the road, got in touch with Cllr Paul Hodgkinson earlier this year. He had spoken to Gloucestershire Highways about the damaged pavement but nothing had been done.

Now, after Paul got involved the offending surface has been sorted out.

Paul said: “I have a small pot of money each year for local highways projects so I used a bit of that to get some action for Bourton on this issue. The pavement was resurfaced last month and residents are delighted. It means it’s safe and will now last for years.”

 

Councils ‘not winning the battle’ against potholes

News has broken today that councils are “not winning the battle” against potholes, as related vehicle breakdowns between April and June reached a three-year high.

These latest figures come from a report by Neil Lancefield which states that a total of 4,091 call-outs were received by the RAC which was the most for the second quarter of a year since 2015.

Incidents included damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels. The period followed severe weather in February and March which saw widespread snow and ice.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Our roads are still in a poor state of repair after the damage caused by the Beast from the East and the generally harsh late winter conditions the country experienced.

“Councils have been working hard to fix potholes and general road surface degradation, but despite further emergency funding from central government their budgets are even more stretched than in previous years.

“Our figures demonstrate they are not winning the battle and as a result the safety of too many drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists is being put at risk.”

Responding, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said:

“It is incredible that we are still talking about potholes while we are sweltering in the hottest summer for 40 years.

“The fact is that many of our county’s roads are still in a poor condition despite the winter being over for months. It is taking an age to properly repair some of our main routes. ‘A’ roads like the Fosse Way in the Cotswolds are appalling in parts, while some of Cheltenham’s roads can only be described as embarrassing. It’s the same all over Gloucestershire.

“There just isn’t enough investment going into the county’s roads and pavements and it is all too clear to anyone driving, cycling or walking on them.”

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire remains in the bottom half of a league table, compiled by “we are cycling UK”, of local authorities and their rate of fixing potholes.  GCC is currently sitting in 121st place out of 214.

The Council’s cutting out plastics and here’s how

An albatross unwittingly feeding plastic to their young. A sea turtle hopelessly ensnared in floating debris. The most celebrated and watched programme of 2017 was also the most sobering.

‘Blue Planet II’ brought to life the staggering impact that our consumerist, throwaway culture is having on our seas.  It’s estimated that 9 million tonnes of plastic waste enters our seas and oceans every year, causing huge damage to marine life and the environment. Single-use plastics (SUPs), such as straws, plastic bottles and disposable coffee cups are not widely recycled, and can take up to 900 years to degrade, breaking into fragments that enter the food chain.

At the county council meeting last week, Lib Dems and Greens joined forces in calling for Gloucestershire County Council to become a SUP-free council by 2019, ensuring that all items such as bottles and cutlery are replaced with sustainable alternatives.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach), who seconded the motion, said, “The prevalence of plastic in our seas and oceans is an incredibly important issue. The success of the ‘plastic bag levy’, brought in during the coalition government, was a relatively minor move that has led to an 85% reduction in disposable plastic bag usage.

“I was really pleased to support Cllr Eva Ward on this issue but was saddened that the Conservatives chose to push the timescales back so that in effect GCC won’t become fully SUP-free until 2025. They should have been braver.

“Still, at least we got some action and the journey to less plastic pollution started here!”

Thumbs up to Missing Link consultation

A 6 week consultation has started into 2 options to solve the A417 Missing Link at the Air Balloon.

Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with local councillors Iain Dobie and Nigel Robbins.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the County Council Liberal Democrats (Bourton & Northleach), represents part of the A417 and attended the launch of the Missing Link options consultation at the Star College last week:

“After years of campaigning it was a sweet moment to see real options on the table at last to fix the gridlock, pollution and accident record at the Air Balloon.

“The Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire are totally committed to solving this decades old issue and to get us all moving again at the blackspot. It impacts on all parts of our county. Both of the options being presented are do-able and I’m now going to speak to residents and parish councils about their views. It’s important to note that the consultation states that construction will not start until mid 2021 – we will do our bit to ensure the Government doesn’t let this slip.”

You can look at the detailed options and give feedback on the proposals before 29 March 2018 here: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/a417-missing-link/

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.”

 

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.

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

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.”