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/

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.”

 

Council pays out thousands of pounds for pothole damage

Nearly £18,000 of taxpayers’ money has been paid out to drivers for pothole damage in Gloucestershire.

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The figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire County Council show that £17,774 has been paid in compensation to motorists for pothole-related damage over the last three years.

Now, the county’s Liberal Democrats have expressed bitter disappointment with the Conservative controlled Council for not properly investing in the area’s roads. 

Liberal Democrat Shadow for Highways, Cllr. Chris Coleman (St Mark’s and St Peter’s) said:

“A total of 1,713 unsurprisingly annoyed drivers made claims for compensation between November 2013 and November 2016. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone, whether they are motorists, councils or taxpayers.

“People already have to fork out so much to drive a car, the least they should expect is that their vehicle doesn’t get ruined by a bumpy road.

“Thousands of pounds are now being spent on pay-outs that could have been invested instead in fixing our roads.

“Roads should be fixed quickly so this compensation does not have to be paid out in the first place.

“It is about time the Conservatives sorted out our county roads for good.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) added:

“The volume of claims is large for A roads. I’m not at all surprised given the correspondence I get regularly from constituents who have damaged their cars driving through potholes.

“The spike in claims in Spring 2016 reflects the massive backlog in repairs which GCC’s roads contractor Amey was experiencing. It also came at the end of a very wet winter when so many potholes appeared.

“It highlights a failure by the Conservatives who have been responsible for roads in the county for the last 12 years. They need to invest more in road maintenance and improve the quality of repairs. It is the number one thing people raise with me and it has to improve.”

Nationally a total of £12 million has been paid out over the last four years on pothole compensation, with an average payment per person of £650.

Council misses recycling targets for last 4 years

Latest figures show that Gloucestershire is binning more waste than ever but too much is going to landfill.

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Now, the Liberal Democrats are calling for the County Council to get its recycling shoes on and start hitting waste targets. At a recent Council meeting they called on Shire Hall bosses to find ways to boost the amount we all leave out on the kerbside which can be used again.

The latest figures show that county-wide recycling rates are averaging 48%. That’s 5% less than the target of 53% which the Council has set itself.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach), Leader of the county Lib Dems, led the debate and says that the Council’s administration needs to address the disappointing figures:

“When targets are set then every effort has to be made to meet them. This is serious stuff as we’re protecting our environment when we recycle more. The 53% target hasn’t been met for the last four years. The Council’s target is to recycle/compost at least 60% of its household waste by 2020 with an aspirational target of 70% by 2030. It clearly has a long way to go to achieve these goals.

“Sadly, across the county some of the recycling figures are low. In 2015/2016, Stroud was at the bottom with only 31% of their household waste being sent for recycling whilst Gloucester could only achieve a 37% rate. The Cotswolds was the only district that had met the 53% recycling target achieving a 58% rate last year, although even this has been falling from its peak.

“In the council chamber I called for a real uplift in recycling rates across the county. I agree with Gloucestershire’s ‘Waste Core Strategy’ in that we need to make sure that reusing and composting should be made as simple as possible and that people and businesses can easily recycle on the kerbside or at waste sites.

“There are some real differences across the county when it comes to dealing with trash. In some areas councils collect drink cartons whilst in others people have no choice but to send them to landfill. And what about metals and textiles? There’s so much scope here to help us all recycle more.

“In the meantime, I’ll be insisting that the Cabinet Member at Shire Hall responsible for waste commissions an urgent report to look at ways the county’s recycling rates can be improved and for this to be discussed by all councillors in December.

“Talking rubbish for some might not be very interesting, but how we dispose of it is an important issue, especially now that this Conservative administration has committed us to a massive incinerator at Javelin Park – we can’t let that be an excuse to fail to recycle.”

Call for new Transport Secretary to confirm commitment to ‘Missing link’

Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Council Group, Paul Hodgkinson, has today sent an open letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

The letter requests the new Transport Secretary and the newly formed post-Referendum Government continue with the commitment shown by the previous Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP to fix the ‘Missing Link’ on the A417.

Cllr. Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout, said that:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for Gloucestershire for more than 20 years. It is often very heavily congested seeing more than 34,000 vehicles a day and there are frequent tragic accidents with more than 340 casualties in the past 15 years.

“Local residents, campaigners and elected representatives have for decades been lobbying both local and national government to find a solution. It is well known for it being a significant bottleneck and has been found to have the worst average vehicle delay of all strategic routes in the South West.

The letter continued by saying that:

“Since the start of January 2014, I’ve been delighted to see support gathering pace for government to fund the £255 million A417 loop, which is undoubtedly the only viable option to fix the ‘Missing Link’.

“In April 2014, I was particularly pleased that support was given by the Highways Agency in recognising local concerns about the route following stakeholder events in the region and highlighting the issue in its route strategy.

In making reference to the support of the former Transport Secretary, Cllr. Hodgkinson also said:

“The former Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP visited the A417 ‘Missing Link’ two years ago on Wednesday 16th July 2014 and was extremely supportive of the scheme.

“Funding has been secured by Highways England (HE) for the next stage of the A417 ‘Missing Link’ scheme development, but there’s still along way to go. We would like you to be equally committed as your predecessor, if not more supportive and would very much like to see construction starting before Highways England’s issued timeline for the scheme development, which identifies that construction will not start until summer 2021.

“The Air Balloon roundabout, which is a key part of the missing link section, is forecasted to be running 30 per cent over capacity by 2026. Already the road is congested and dangerous and needless to say will be worse before the anticipated summer 2021 construction date.

Cllr. Hodgkinson in asking to reaffirm the new Transport Secretary’s funding commitment to the ‘Missing Link’ also offered an invitation to the Rt Hon Chris Grayling saying:

“I believe Highways England (HE) will be undertaking an engagement event in Autumn 2016 to explain what will happen next and we would be delighted if you could perhaps join us to show your support?

Traffic warden contract should be parked!

 

Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to extend Gloucestershire County Council’s parking enforcement contract with APCOA.

Traffic wardens

The decision was taken last week by the County Council’s Conservative Cabinet. The contract to enforce on-street parking was due to end in 2018. Today’s decision means that APCOA will now be policing Gloucestershire’s streets for an extra two years until 2020.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of proper consultation undertaken prior to making the decision and the poor performance of APCOA in enforcing residents parking zones in many areas.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) commented: “It concerns me that the Conservative administration has not allowed the time to consult people properly about this. On an issue as important as parking extensive work needs to be undertaken to get the best deal for taxpayers.

“That is why we don’t want the current contract extended at this stage. It feels like this decision has been slipped in through the back door without effective scrutiny.

“If the administration had taken the time to speak to local residents and councillors they would know for themselves that the contract should not be extended at this point.

“Residents’ concerns about parking are not being heard. Many people pay lots of money for permits every year, yet they hardly ever see traffic wardens in their street. I know of more than one example where cars have been parked for long periods without any permit.

“There needs to be a level playing field. In some streets there are high levels of activity from APCOA but in others they are rarely seen. Many residents play by the rules in purchasing a permit, they should expect to be able to park near their homes. They should also expect that others who don’t have permits are properly dealt with. “

Massive black hole in Tory pothole funding for Gloucestershire

The county’s Liberal Democrats have blasted local Conservatives for letting down Gloucestershire as figures unveiled in Parliament now show that cash to fix our roads has been slashed.

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Parliamentary analysis shows that in Gloucestershire pothole maintenance funding has been cut by £478,000.

This cut comes after the Chancellor promised an extra ‘Pothole Fund’ recently. Even with this cash, it doesn’t plug the gap and the county will lose out.

Nationally, the shortfall in cash is £25 million.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said: “In our area local people tell me day after day that we need to fix our roads. If the Conservatives won’t deliver it, we will.

“Fixing our roads and delivering for Gloucestershire is a key priority. But here we see that this money for fixing our highways has actually been cut by half a million pounds.

He added: “The Government have trumpeted the pothole funding but now our analysis shows a massive black hole.

“There were a lot of press releases on how wonderful this pothole fund was but in reality we now see that it delivers much, much less.

“We are facing ‘Pot Hole Gloucestershire’. Our drivers and cyclists deserve so much better.

“Millions of drivers pay tax through the nose for awful roads that are a danger to drivers and to those riding bikes.

“It is, frankly, a national and local embarrassment.”

Call for action over road casualties

 

The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have called for urgent action over the increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on Gloucestershire’s roads.

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A report providing a strategic overview of the Council’s performance for Quarter 3 2015/16 submitted to the recent Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee revealed ‘Road Safety’ figures to be ‘performance worse than tolerance’.

Measured against a target level of 147 people, the actual number of killed and seriously injured people in Quarter 3 reached 192. This last quarter to the end of September saw the highest three month total since 2003. It was noted that car driver numbers were particularly high and investigations are currently taking place to see if there were specific reasons for this sudden increase.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton-on-the-Water & Northleach), who recently called for safety and congestion issues on the A429 to be looked at by a special task group, said:

“Across Gloucestershire we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of killed and seriously injured people including children and older people on our roads. The figures indicate that 15 children were injured in quarter 3 2015 compared to 9 children in the same quarter period back in 2012. Just one injured child is one too many, but 15 in one quarter is concerning.

“The most recent quarter shows an increase in those over 70 years old who have been killed or seriously injured. I am keen for the study that is currently being undertaken looking at older road user casualties to be completed sooner in order to stop the number of those killed and seriously injured from escalating.

“It is particularly concerning that the road safety budget for 2016/17 has reduced by nearly £300K compared to 2015/16 at a time when the number of killed and seriously injured has increased.

“Behind every one statistic there is an individual who has been injured or worse killed and we must as a council do everything we can to prevent such road incidents from happening.”

“We all have a part to play in reducing the number of those killed or seriously injured on our county roads. I’d like the Cabinet Member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure to push this further up the council agenda in order to see a decrease in the number of people who are injured on our roads every year.

“For three years running the Liberal Democrats have successfully secured Year 5 visits to SkillZone, which is a fantastic and fun way of getting important safety messages across to our children.

“I’d encourage all schools to take up the opportunity of bringing their Year 5 groups to such a place and thus helping to prevent the concerning casualty figures that we are currently seeing.”

Securing investment in young people’s mental health support

At the County Council’s budget setting meeting in Shire Hall last week the Liberal Democrats successfully secured an investment of £25K for 2016/2017 into mental health support for children and young people. This follows the £450K investment the Liberal Democrats secured two years ago to improve young people’s mental health services.

mentalhealth

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said:

“Children in Gloucestershire’s schools suffer significant levels of stress and mental illness, which has resulted in a worryingly high incidence of self-harm. There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self-harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%. Two years ago, we secured budget funding to launch a pioneering schools-based service to counter this by increasing pupil’s mental resilience.

“The subsequent reception from schools has been very positive and this year we’ve secured additional funding to extend the service, notably to children with special needs, for example Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder – this represents a major step forward in mental health.”

It is envisaged that the £25K will be used to develop a resource and training programme for professionals and schools to support these groups of young people who are susceptible to low levels of resilience.

 Mental health is one of the Lib Dems’ top priorities. There is now an increased awareness that mental illness devastates the lives of many young people. Figures reveal that 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is around three children in every class. These figures really highlight the need to do more.