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

Thank you!

In the early hours of Friday May 5, Paul Hodgkinson was re-elected to Gloucestershire County Council.

First elected to the Council in 2013 for the Bourton on the Water and Northleach division with a majority of 59 votes, Cllr Hodgkinson thanked everyone for their support after his re-election:

“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for me. To be re-elected with 1,000 more votes than last time means alot to me. I can’t believe the majority has gone up to 784 votes!

“My commitment now is as it’s always been – to work hard all year round, keep in touch and listen to what people want.”

The full result was:

Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem) – 2365 votes

Mark MacKenzie-Charrington (Conservative) – 1681 votes.

Turnout – 47%.

 

 

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.”

In the bag

From Monday 5 October plastic bags have to be paid for in larger shops throughout England.

PH plastic bags

From that day, England falls into line with Wales and Scotland in charging 5p a bag.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) welcomes the move:

“Wales has seen a 90% drop in plastic bag usage since the charge was introduced which is having a major positive impact on the environment – plastic bags can hang around for up to 100 years and are often seen drifting around streets and the countryside.

“The Lib Dems in the last Coalition Government introduced this green initiative.  People can stock up on bags now to make sure they don’t then have to pay from next week – reusing bags will be the way forward.

“But there is nowhere now to recycle plastic bags in the Cotswolds – there used to be facilities at Tescos and some other stores.

“Would CDC be able to provide recycling of plastic bags? That way we could have a ‘double whammy’ of much lower usage and the bags that do get used could also be recycled!”

Call for County Council to boost apprenticeships

On the back of a record number of apprenticeships across Gloucestershire, the County Council is being urged to go one step further.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with successful Cirencester apprentice Jordan McKenna

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with successful Cirencester apprentice Jordan McKenna

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton and Northleach) is recommending that the Council should create a cross-party task force, which would work with businesses in the county encouraging them to recruit more apprentices.

The council itself recruited 20 new apprentices, with plans for additional recruitment scheduled for later in the year.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday, 25 June, Cllr Hodgkinson will present a motion calling for a special Task Force to be set up to boost apprenticeship. He will reference recent figures which show that Gloucestershire has benefitted from 15,560 new apprenticeships since 2010.

Cllr Hodgkinson said: “The continued growth of the number of apprentices across Gloucestershire since the Lib Dems came into Government shows our commitment to building a stronger economy in a fairer society.

“In the Cotswolds area alone 1,860 new apprentices have been started. However, more can be done to make sure that this number continues to grow across the county.

“Apprenticeships can be a great alternative to university for people, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to be able to get a foot in the door with a local employer.

“By bringing county councillors from all parties to talk with employers, apprentices and schools, we can make sure that those young people who want a way to gain a skill have as many opportunities to do so as possible.

“That’s why I am calling for a new task force to really promote apprenticeships across Gloucestershire.”

Apprentice Week boosts opportunities in the Cotswolds

National Apprentice Week was held last week and Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is already seeing a boost in opportunities for young people in the Cotswolds.

Jordan McKenna (left) with Paul Hodgkinson in Cirencester.

Jordan McKenna (left) with Paul Hodgkinson in Cirencester.

Speaking in Cirencester, Cllr Hodgkinson sees the initiative as a way of getting people into jobs:

“The huge increase in the number of apprentices since the Lib Dems came into Government is something to really celebrate. In the Cotswolds there have been many new apprenticeships each year since 2010. There can be a pressure to go to university but apprenticeships offer a way for young people to get a skill or foot in the door with a company which then translates into a job.

Cllr Hodgkinson, the Prospective MP for the area, met with one successful apprentice in Cirencester this week to talk about how he had made the transition from apprentice to full time employee.

Jordan McKenna, 21, was taken on as an apprentice by Cirencester Housing Society and is now working permanently for the organisation as a Housing Officer. Mr McKenna described his experience as ‘a great way to get into the industry’.

Latest figures for the Cotswolds show that over a thousand apprentices have been taken on by local companies since the Coalition Government was formed. Cllr Hodgkinson welcomed the change:

“Meeting Jordan showed me just how positive this can be. I know from speaking to local bosses that they would like to take on apprentices and I will continue to work for more opportunities like this to be created.”