Gloucester MP welcomes Government funding to transform two Gloucester estates

Gloucester City Homes (GCH) has secured funding of £1.25m with the support of the city MP Richard Graham and the City Council from the Government’s Estates Regeneration fund to transform the Matson and Podsmead estates.

Richard said, “This is a great win for Gloucester, and combined with the £1.49m Arts Council/Lottery Fund Great Spaces win for our new Culture Trust shows that Gloucester is going on surprising ourselves. It shows the next stage of GCH’s transition journey from managing council housing stock to independent company driving regeneration of some of the city’s most neglected parts.

“I think we should be proud of our Housing company, pleased the City Council is backing them and that we’re winning, against competition from all over the country. Let’s now shape some great new housing – and see how it shapes us”.

PRESS RELEASE: City MP calls time on Morrisons/Trust Inns failure to act on Ridge & Furrow future

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham has told both supermarket giant Morrisons and pubco Trust Inns it’s time to bring an end to their standoff and sort out the long closed Ridge & Furrow site in Abbeydale.

‘The situation is (politely) very frustrating’, Richard said, ‘and does nothing for the reputations of either business. Trust Inns say they’re waiting for news of their new rent, which is overdue, while Morrisons say they’re waiting for a variation of lease as Trust Inns has a potential alternative sub tenant. It is frankly absurd that they can’t sit down and sort this out together’.

Richard says the former pub has status given by the City Council as an asset of community value: ‘my earlier survey showed that many more people valued a pub than a petrol station and the campaigning group has made it clear they expect that to be honoured. However since the pub isn’t being sold the Community can’t bid for it so it would be useful to know if any group with pub or hospitality sector experience has approached the Trust Inns’ agent James Baker (Bristol) with firm interest.’

But the MP noted that the economics of a pub on the site were not easy: ‘Trust Inns say they would develop a new pub if they owned the site, but Morrisons doesn’t want to sell. If they sub lease there are at least three mouths to feed: Morrisons, Trust Inns and whomever becomes a sub tenant – plus a manager if the sub tenant is not going to do that him or herself. In my experience, with pub margins as they are, higher rateable values and tough drinking laws on drivers, it won’t be easy to make this pub profitable for so many layers, and on top there will now be a hefty capital outlay to get the place looking good again.’

So the MP believes that if there is no serious bid by a credible pub group, Trust Inns would be entitled to come up with an alternative plan which ‘should be put to the community and then to the Council Planning Committee. Residents and councillors would have to take a view on the best way forward. No-one wants to see an empty site for much longer.’

But Richard Graham said the immediate issue is a huge failure of communication between the two big companies, and with residents in Abbeydale and Abbeymead. ‘If you own a site, especially on a prominent site in a community which supports your supermarket, you have a duty to let people know your plan. If you don’t, and time drags on, then residents are rightly suspicious. I told Morrisons years ago they would not get a petrol station there and should think of a plan B. God knows they and their tenant Trust Inns have had long enough to sort this out’.

The MP added that he will highlight that this whole saga runs completely opposite to all of Morrisons’ original values: ‘it’s a story I’m afraid of corporate greed that starts with the Supermarket wanting to get the pub out for a much higher margin petrol station – but not being able to deliver on that. I will be writing to Morrisons’ Chief Executive to seek his help in getting this sorted and if that doesn’t work then I will hold a parliamentary debate on this ridiculous situation’.

 

The why, what and how of the new School Funding Formula

The Government’s consultation on proposals for a new funding formula closes this Wednesday. This is both very important and very complicated – and whatever final proposal emerges it will be impossible to please everyone.

Let me try and explain the issue, the current proposal and where I think we go from here. Please do try and have your say included too.

The problem with our school funding is that no-one can easily explain it and it ends up with huge disparities in the amounts of funding for similar pupils in different parts of the country.

Basically this benefits metropolitan boroughs and cities, at the expense of poorer cities in well off counties, which is roughly our situation. This is unnecessarily complicated and certainly isn’t fair for much of the country. So the government made a pledge to resolve this with a simple new national formula which would explain clearly on what basis each school gets funded.

This required a basic level of funding for each child and then agreed factors, and weightings of those factors, for issues that influence children’s attainment at school to determine extra funding.

The government has proposed such a formula, and the main factors are low prior attainment, deprivation, mobility and English as a second language: alongside school and geographical cost factors.

It’s impossible to know exactly what income each school would get in 2018-19 as we don’t yet know how many pupils or eg how many are entitled to free school meals or have English as a second language in 2018-19. Extra or fewer pupils will change the figures: if a primary school, for example, is predicted to gain or lose £25,000 then 5 pupils more or less could see that change disappear.

However, based on this year’s entry, the estimates show that Gloucester will gain £58,000 for primary schools and £256,000 for secondary schools: an overall increase of 0.4%.

But within that figure, which is an encouraging start, there are of course winners and losers.

The winners are schools with lots of pupils with the characteristics that show they need extra help. So, for example Beaufort, St Peters and Severn Vale Secondary Schools are relative winners and the grammar schools relative losers. The primary schools which have the fewest pupils on free school meals and English as a second language tend to do less well: e.g. Meadowside has 1.9% of pupils for whom English is a second language whereas Widden has 78%. The challenges for those two schools are very different.

So if your school is a relative loser in year one or two, it is understandable if your Head encourages you to write to me: but some of the changes are not large as a percentage of turnover, and none over 3% per year. Many government departments (though not Health and Education at all) and all councils have had to reduce by much more.

As the son and brother of primary school Deputy Heads, I understand that you will fight for every penny: but I also have to look at the bigger picture and the underperforming primaries in my constituency who will benefit, which will increase the chances of those pupils succeeding.

Basically there are now 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools across the country than there were in 2010 and I would love EVERY primary and secondary in our city to be in those categories. There have been some great successes but others need more help to get there.

Some constituents have asked me why the government is cutting education. It isn’t. Health and education have been the most protected budgets since we inherited a public finance overspend of over £150 billion a year. The Government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, and this year over £40 billion is being spent on schools in this country. Any suggestion that we have ever spent MORE on schools is simply wrong.

Over time counties like ours will get more, and metropolitan areas relatively less. But that has to be done gradually, and there is no new money to make it easier – you know the pressures on other areas (whether health, social care, or welfare) while we try to get back to living within our means.

All of which makes for difficult politics in the Commons. Because there are many schools in the least funded areas which don’t see an immediate rise in funding, and some that do lose quite a lot, in my view there is not enough political support in Parliament at the moment to introduce the new formula.

Meanwhile the consultation isn’t closed until Wednesday evening (https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/). So you still have a chance to have your say on the consultation and influence the results. The government will analyse the results and decide how to respond (I imagine) in the summer.

My own belief is that the weighting of the factors in the formula could be altered slightly: it can be argued for example that deprivation is scored too highly once all the factors are considered. A similar point in another way would be to increase the basic figure to educate a pupil regardless of the pupil’s circumstance. And of course some extra transition money divided between eg the most poorly funded areas would be very helpful, although it’s hard to see where it might come from.

But we have to try and find a way through this if a) we want to fulfil the pledge and b) more importantly we want to prevent the inequality of the current situation from growing still further.

So I’ve had meetings with the other Gloucestershire MPs, the county council and also with Ministers trying to find possible ways of improving the formula and its implementation. And I’ll continue to do so. But I will also bear in mind that current proposals mean overall schools in Gloucester would see a slight increase in education, and that should continue to increase gently in future years.

So I’m balancing the views of those who are unhappy with those who are beneficiaries, the short and the longer term, and taking a view based both on the city as a whole and the national interest.

I await the analysis of the consultation and the government’s response with great interest and hope changes can be found to make this first ever national funding formula work for as many as possible of my and other schools.

Do give your reactions to the consultation before Wednesday evening and copy me in on any email responses you send (the consultation is also quite complicated) at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

No rose tinted specs – join the Great Gloucester Spring Clean

Litter off Barton Street last week

Yesterday a constituent who gets my regular e-news accused me gently of having rose tinted specs. Mary, who lives in Robinswood, said I always focused on the good news and wondered if we lived in the same city.

So we discussed Mary’s view of Gloucester. She’s retired, so she isn’t that interested in changes to employment, the growth in jobs and apprenticeships, or the 80% reduction in youth unemployment. New employers in growing sectors like cyber, nuclear or tidal lagoons don’t impact Mary: and she’s not very interested in Heritage or Sport either. New housing means construction and she’s not mad about the noise and change involved.

Mary hasn’t been to the Docks and Quays for years, and she doesn’t think whatever’s happened there is for people like her anyway.

No: Mary judges Gloucester by what she sees in her part of the city, where her daughter lives in Barton, and in the city centre. And she doesn’t like what she sees.

In Robinswood around her, Mary sees too many unkempt tenants’ gardens with brambles spreading over their fences. She points out a path where the contractors don’t keep the grass cut very well (she does it) and a tree where the conkers aren’t swept up. She sees far too much litter and dog poo everywhere.

Mary says the alley from Barton to Asda is ‘dreadful’, the litter on the verges of the roads that she sees from buses ‘shocking’ and young men in sleeping bags in the city centre ‘depressing’.

Mary would agree it’s not just a question of pointing a finger at the city council, their contractors or GCH – though there are times some or all need chasing. She’s worried about attitude. Too many rude, litter leaving individuals who just don’t care. And Mary has a point. So what can be done?

In my view, leadership means getting tougher on individual responsibility, and communities leading the way on improving local areas. One example of this, often discussed, is fly tipping. In Barton, residents, even some councillors, have told me for years it is because strangers drive into the ward and dump stuff there.

Well earlier this year Barton businessman Phillipe Lassey was ordered to pay over £2,000 for organising industrial scale fly tipping round the corner from his business on Barton Street.

Recently too, Kingsholm and Wotton resident Elias Mathai was fined £1,830 for dumping his rubbish on RSPCA property on Horton Road, around the corner from where he lives.

Neither case is about some outside person bringing rubbish into Gloucester but local, individual responsibility. How can you live or work in a community and treat it like this?

So we do need a tougher approach to fly tipping and I welcome Richard Cook and the city council increasing fines sharply and creating a site where you can put photos of people behaving irresponsibly and report them here.

But there are also some public places where the litter just needs cleaning up, like in the St Mary de Crypt graveyard, Tuffley Park, Blackbridge and Kingsway, where I helped teams of volunteers. If everybody gave half a day in the ward they live a year to clean up it would make a big difference.

The late Cllr Yakub Pandor set a great example, walking around with a litter picking stick. And Ivan Taylor’s brother-in-law Paul  does the same in the city centre (pipe, cap and broom). We should recognise those who clean up, selflessly.

So come and join me in the ‘Great British Spring Clean’ March 3 2017 between 10am and 3pm, at the Guildhall on Eastgate Street. 

Let me know if there’s a good clean up in your ward (like Kingsway) you want to highlight at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP to raise Emily’s Code in Parliament

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has secured a Westminster Hall debate tomorrow (Wednesday 1st March) to promote Emily’s Code in Parliament.

Emily’s Code, which honours the memory of Emily Gardner from Gloucester, is set to launch on Saturday, 4 March at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show in London. The Code aims to prevent accidents at sea by highlighting key safety messages.

Emily Gardner was 14 when she drowned in a boating accident due to an ill-fitting buoyancy aid which snagged on a cleat when the boat capsized. Emily’s Code highlights a number of factors that are essential for safe boating and which could have prevented Emily’s accident.

Emily’s parents are launching the Code with the support of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), HM Coastguard, British Water Ski and Wakeboard, and the RNLI to raise awareness for small boat owners and users. The Code is the result of close work by the RYA, Richard Graham MP and Debbie and Clive Gardner.

NOTE TO EDITORS

You can watch the debate live from 4-4.30pm  on Wednesday 1 March 2017 here: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0f8d1c07-5100-448d-a144-fdc6ae72de55

Members of the press are also invited to attend the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show in London for a photo opportunity with the Gardners, RYA and Richard Graham MP during the launch. The launch will take place on the 4 March 2017 at 10:30am on the Main Stage of the show at Alexandra Palace (N22 7AY). Press passes are available here: http://www.rya.org.uk/programmes/dinghy-show/media-centre/Pages/press-registration.aspx

Further details including the content of the Code will be released following the launch in London.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes extra government funding for Gloucestershire

City MP Richard Graham has welcomed today’s announcement of Growth Deal funding for Gloucestershire saying, “It is good news that Gloucestershire has received a further £29 million from the latest round of the Growth Fund. We will all benefit from the establishment of a big new cyber Park in Cheltenham, which will complement some of the cyber developments in both Cheltenham and Gloucester recently. Likewise the £4m to be spent on improving the Longford roundabout on the A40 ring road around Gloucester will benefit many of my constituents and others in our county.

Obviously I’m disappointed that that our bid for improvements around the Railway Station weren’t successful, but Great Western work at the new car park starts this month and we have two important bids to the Homes and Community Agency (HCA) on which we will hear shortly. A City Council delegation led by Paul James joined me for a useful discussion with the HCA earlier this week so there is masses to be getting on with.

At the same time figures announced by the Lottery Fund this week showed that Gloucester has received £62 million from the National Lottery Fund for 670 projects since inception – hugely benefiting communities, heritage and sport. Winners include the Blackbridge Jubilee Athletics track, Matson Rugby Club, St Mary de Crypt, the Podsmead Big Local and the new Rowing Club.so funding comes through many different routes.”

« Older Entries