Balancing Compassion and Regeneration

Richard with Sgt Matt Puttock and city centre based officers

Richard with Sgt Matt Puttock and city centre based officers

Some residents and retailers have written to me about an increase in beggars and apparently homeless people sleeping in the city centre.

They rightly point out that this puts off visitors, discourages investors and gives the wrong image of a city that should be known for its friendliness, heritage and good shopping. Of course this also doesn’t help the good work being done to regenerate our city centre, whether through Heritage Lottery Fund awards or government and City Council grants to improve streets like Southgate Street: or help to encourage over 5 million visitors a year to the successful Docks and Quays to walk up to the city centre as well. So what are we doing about this?

I’ve had meetings with the Police, the City Council and St Mungo’s. We all agree more needs to be done to make sure that rough sleepers are returned safely into the communities they come from (often not Gloucester), and that beggars are off the street so that no one is put off coming to the city centre. Part of this is about a more visible police presence in the city centre and I am pleased that Supt Richard Cooper has brought back a team of officers, based in Bearlands, to patrol the city centre more often.

Alongside this we have increased the breadth of compassionate help available for people in trouble. The appropriately named George Whitfield Centre (formerly the Railway Club) now houses a Glos Care Services unit for the Homeless, the Foodbank, the Gloucester City Mission and a Green Square debt advisor. To have these services all together under one roof, opposite the Hospital, is among the most joined up operations in the country.

I am determined that Gloucester be a city of compassion for those who need help: but that we do not become the destination of choice for rough sleepers and beggars in Gloucestershire, let alone further afield.

I believe that having the Police back in the city centre and patrolling more often, ready to use their enforcement powers if need be, alongside the services in the Whitfield Centre, is the right balance of tough love: and I hope you will continue to see the improvement that we all want in the centre of our city.

Have we got the balance right? Let me know how you feel about our approach to rough sleepers and beggars at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

Richard

 

 

 

 

Richard outside the George Whitfield Centre with the team

Richard outside the George Whitfield Centre with the team

 

My Choices from This Year’s History Festival

front-cover

In this year of the anniversaries of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Jutland, and current conflicts in North Africa, the Near and Middle East, one of the themes of this year’s History Festival is inevitably conflict: how it changed those who fought, as well as the course of history in the lands themselves.

Our speakers this year – participants, descendants, professional historians and authors alike – capture the intensity of the human experience of war at different times, in the peace of this ancient Dominican priory.

There isn’t a talk here I would want to miss:

Nat Saye & Sele – Normandy in World War 2

Nat Fiennes (now Lord Saye & Sele) was 24 when he took part in the 1944 Normandy campaign as a platoon commander in the Ox & Bucks Rifles. He brings those days and that campaign alive again, with his son Martin, in a very rare talk on Tues 13 Sept at 18.00.

Andrew Salmon – The Battle of the Imjin River

South Korea today is a thriving nation with a strong economy, but 65 years ago a huge communist offensive was unleashed on the Imjin River. There was not much more than the Glosters on their hill between the invaders and Seoul, the Korean capital. Historian and author of ‘To the Last Round’ Andrew Salmon joins us from Seoul to tell of this desperate post-war battle and how the men of Gloucestershire helped change North East Asia. This is a rare chance to hear Andrew in Britain on Thurs 15 Sept at 20.00.

Richard Van Emden – The Somme 

To mark the battle’s centenary the Festival welcomes noted World War I authority Richard Van Emden. Richard has interviewed 270 veterans and written 12 books on the subject. He co-authored with Harry Patch ‘The last veteran’, the latter’s best-selling autobiography. Richard will share many remarkable stories told by the soldiers, including an account by one in the Glosters on Fri 16 Sept at 16.00.

David Olusoga – The World’s War – Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

For decades the contribution of Empire to Britain’s fight in World War I was scarcely known. David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian whose book explores the extraordinary stories of the millions of Indian, Afican and Asian troops and ancillaries who fought in World War I. He brings them out of the shadows and on to centre stage on Fri 16 Sept at 18.00.

Nick Jellicoe – Jutland: The Unfinished Battle

A hundred years ago Germany challenged Britannia’s command of the waves in arguably the Royal Navy’s last great sea battle. Nick Jellicoe’s grandfather Admiral John Jellicoe played the leading role in the still much debated Battle of Jutland. Nick’s research and his illustrated account of a controversial battle and its legacy is on Fri 16 Sept at 20.00.

To book tickets to any of the Blackfriars Talks, including those shown above, call the Box Office on 01452 396 572, visit the Tourist Information Centre in Gloucester (Southgate St) or buy online at www.gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk

Photos

  • Volunteering at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Volunteering at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Helping a GRH patient get to their appointment on time.
  • Opening of the improved Royal Mail sorting centre Opening of the improved Royal Mail sorting centre The Mayor of Gloucester and I opening the new Gloucester South Customer Enquiry Office.
  • Visiting Gloucestershire Enterprise Limited Visiting Gloucestershire Enterprise Limited With five new Glosterpreneurs from landscape gardening to book keeping.
  • Robinswood Go Wild Event Robinswood Go Wild Event With new friends Stan Laurel and Frank Sidebottom. Supporting Gloucester Guildhall.
  • NCS Team NCS Team Great to see NCS Team 4 on Southgate Street raising money for the British Heart Foundation.
  • Visiting Imperial Commercials Visiting Imperial Commercials Apprentice Ben and I with the CAB tilt pump in their Gloucester service station.
  • Imperial Commercials Imperial Commercials With apprentice Charlotte at their reception office
  • Opening the New Inn's nightclub Opening the New Inn's nightclub The opening of Tree Tops at the New Inn
  • #Bringbackourgirls #Bringbackourgirls PM right to condemn abduction of 276 Niger school girls. Glad UK help now accepted, hope the girls can be rescued ASAP.
  • Welcoming Gloucester's latest HQ Welcoming Gloucester's latest HQ Tidal Lagoon Power has relocated from Cheltenham and aims to generate 10% of Britain's energy needs.
  • Celebrating Jess Ridler's fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust Celebrating Jess Ridler's fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust With Jacqui and Rob Ridler, loveliest and bravest of parents.
  • Highlighting new Veterans Transition Guide Highlighting new Veterans Transition Guide With Ex Glosters Ray Peart and RBL's Bob Perkins in Eastgate Market
  • The Employers at my Gloucester Academy Jobs Fair The Employers at my Gloucester Academy Jobs Fair This was my ninth jobs fair and we had over 30 employers offering hundreds of different jobs in Gloucester. Thanks to all who came.
  • Visiting Messier Dowty Visiting Messier Dowty Showing Defence Minister Philip Dunne their Airbus landing gear made at Staverton.
  • With Sports Minister Hugh Robertson at Blackbridge Jubilee Athletics Track With Sports Minister Hugh Robertson at Blackbridge Jubilee Athletics Track On the Minister's visit to our Olympic legacy athletics track with Bob Purcell and members of the Gloucester Athletics Club
  • With Guinness World Record holder Beryl Walker, the worlds oldest paper girl! With Guinness World Record holder Beryl Walker, the worlds oldest paper girl! Beryl delivers The Citizen to our office every morning.
  • With Jamie Mcdonald aka Adventure Man With Jamie Mcdonald aka Adventure Man Helping him get his passport for a much deserved trip to Canada
  • Aroma's Success Aroma's Success Presenting the Aroma restaurant team with their certificate from the 2013 Tiffin Cup
  • Recruitment event for Morrisons Recruitment event for Morrisons Over 240 Barton and Tredworth residents came along to a recruitment event I organised at the Friendship Cafe to help get local people into the new jobs in the Railway Triangle
  • Speaking with Apprentices at Gloucestershire Engineering Training Speaking with Apprentices at Gloucestershire Engineering Training Gloucester's GET was described by The Chancellor as "The best example of a training company" he has ever seen
  • Gloucester athletics turf cutting Gloucester athletics turf cutting Laying turf at the new Gloucester Athletics Track. Princess Anne opened the track a year later and now we plan a new community hub building for athletics, rugby, football and gym.
  • Battling for Lords & Commons Battling for Lords & Commons CC v Lashings - the international cricketers XI
  • Canon Bill Brassell Canon Bill Brassell An privilage to invite Defence Minister Mark Francois to present Canon Bill Brassell with his long overdue Arctic Star medal
  • Defence lunch charity fundraising Defence lunch charity fundraising My defence lunch for local manufacturers raised over £800 for The Rifle's charity Care for Casualties
  • Thanking "Red Watch" at Gloucester Fire Station Thanking "Red Watch" at Gloucester Fire Station Visited Tuffley Fire Station & Skills Zone to thank the team for putting out a fire next door to my Gloucester office in the city centre.
  • Gloucester Brewery Gloucester Brewery I'm really looking forward to Gloucester Gold being available in the Stranger's Bar in the House of Commons in October
  • Gloucester Golf Club Gloucester Golf Club Visiting the two greenkeeper apprentices at Gloucester's Golf Club
  • Holly House Campaign Holly House Campaign I have been campaiging for the NHS to use Holly House since 2007. It is waste of an asset.
  • Barton Jobs Fair Barton Jobs Fair I have organised 11 Jobs Fairs/events, including three in Barton.
  • Litter Picking in Kingsway Litter Picking in Kingsway Collecting litter with the community in Kingsway
  • Celebrating Jamaican Independence Day Celebrating Jamaican Independence Day Gloucester is an inclusive and diverse city - here I'm with Rupert Mackenzie, Anthony Saunders, Verona Vidal and others celebrating Jamaican Independence Day.
  • Visiting Manor Day Care Centre Visiting Manor Day Care Centre I hope that Manor Day Centre can expand and care for more constituents
  • Questioning the Prime Minister Questioning the Prime Minister To read alll my Parliamentary questions and speeches see http://richardgraham.org/parliament/
  • Visiting Sharp Life & Learning Skills in Quedgeley Visiting Sharp Life & Learning Skills in Quedgeley Learning from Kay Harrod about the art project she is working on with her teacher Zoe Sharpe
  • With Sports Minister High Robertson and Jon Garner at Gloucester Rowing Club With Sports Minister High Robertson and Jon Garner at Gloucester Rowing Club The Minister was impressed with the clubs plans for a new boat house on the south bank of the Gloucester Canal. The project has been made possible with Sport England funding
  • Grand National Charity Bet Grand National Charity Bet Won £50 on a charity bet with William Hill. I donated it to the MS Society in Quedgeley
  • Hubble Bubble welcomed to College Street Hubble Bubble welcomed to College Street Traders from College Street welcoming Rae. Her fantastic food includes Wild Boar and Venison burgers
  • Supporting Alzheimer's Society Supporting Alzheimer's Society
  • Cutting the ribbon to open the new Gloucester Academy Cutting the ribbon to open the new Gloucester Academy The first new secondary school in Gloucester to be opened for 30 years.
  • Thank you to Beastie for the quizzical portrait now on loan in my office Thank you to Beastie for the quizzical portrait now on loan in my office
  • Running with Gloucester's 1982 world record breaker Dave Dowdle Running with Gloucester's 1982 world record breaker Dave Dowdle Jeremy Mower (No30), Richard Graham MP (No40), Dave Dowdle (No39) and winner Dan Lawson (No25)
  • Indonesia Investment Promotion  Forum Indonesia Investment Promotion Forum Regional Investment Potential Opportunites
  • Launch of Care2Save Charity website with Donna Air Launch of Care2Save Charity website with Donna Air 100% of commissions go to hospices
  • New GP Surgery in Kingsway New GP Surgery in Kingsway New campaign started on Valentine's Day to urge GP practice & developer to speed up opening of new #Kingsway surgery
  • The case for compassion The case for compassion With Cathryn Hall & others after my Police Widows & Widowers Pensions debate
  • Exciting discussion with Helen Moore of City&Country Residentia Exciting discussion with Helen Moore of City&Country Residentia Prison purchase completed very soon then Consultation

Gloucester Fire & Rescue tips: Do you know the hazards in your home?

I spent time recently with the Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service on a house call to check home safety, and learned some things to share with you.

Most fires start in the kitchen, and one dangerous thing we can all do is turn on appliances like washing machines or dishwashers and then go out e.g. shopping.

Of course you need fire and smoke alarms to work and so checking those – just press the button on them – and replacing batteries is key.

If a fire starts In the kitchen, closed modern fire-proofed doors will keep the fire in there for about 30 minutes longer than if the door is open – often crucial to getting family members down the stairs and out of the house safely.

Glos Fire always recommend a plan B. If you can’t get out though the front door, what other option exists? In terraced houses this might often mean using a back roof into the garden or a neighbour’s property. Always lower yourself from a roof edge before jumping to reduce the height of the jump, and grass is clearly the softest surface if you have the option.

If you do leave the house in a hurry Glos Fire said to remember to take pets, keys and mobile telephones. Of these keys are apparently the most frequently forgotten.

Officers also checked for ‘daisy chain’ electrics, where extension leads are piled into adaptors already plugged in to other adaptors. This increases the risk of overheating a single plug socket and causing a fire – especially if one plug is a high user of electricity like a heater.

Glos Fire strongly advised not to risk overloading sockets, and in my experience teenagers’ bedrooms need frequent checks, and I recommend reminders to teenage children about this.

Glos Fire offer a free visit to check and replace your alarms, and a free Safe and Well visit to discuss all aspects of home safety, including your own health. Call them on 0800 180 41 40 or do your own self-assessment using their checklist via www.glosfire.gov.uk/your_safety.html

Thank you to Red Watch’s Ange and Michael for the education – I hope lots of my constituents take up the offer of a check!

2016 07 25 Fire Station Visit3

What’s on this Summer in Gloucester?

 

enewspicI’m sorry this is a week late and so comes at the end of the world’s oldest festival with the best choral music in the world – the Three Choirs Festival – and after the fantastic Gloucester Carnival (see photos above).

But there is so much happening in our great city that it gives me space to mention some well-known, and not so well-known, activities.

What have I missed? Do let me know of any other great events in our city at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards
Richard

Beatrix Potter Trail // The Cross
Free entry // until Thur 1 September
The great illustrator author Beatrix Potter was born 150 years ago. Collect the trail competition from the Tourist Information Centre (Southgate Street) and join the other parents and children, finding all the clues to get a treat from the House of the Tailor of Gloucester.

Gloucester Waterways Museum // The Docks
£5 adult, £3.60 under 15 // Open 10:00-17:00 all summer
The Museum was re-opened today and is a joy to go around, with films, oral history, interactive additions next week, and the story of our canal, docks and waterways.

Robot Exhibition // Gloucester City Museum
£5 adults, £3 concessions, £12 family // until Sat 27 August
Featuring robots, cyborgs and androids from TV and film productions, go and visit to see Iron Man and the Terminator.

Robinswood Hill
Free entry // Open dawn til dusk daily
The best and highest place for a picnic, walk, play (try the slides) and incredible views. Also the winner of a Green Flag Award last week.

Live Music with Jessica Rhodes // Café René
Free entry // Wed 3 August
Jessica Rhodes is a powerful Soul band with funk-based rhythms making for a great live gig in Gloucester.

Chantel McGregor Live // Gloucester Guildhall
£16 on the door // Thurs 4 August
In 2014, Chantel was voted by the British Blues Awards as Guitarist of the Year for the second consecutive year. She has also won five other awards in the last three years, including Young Artist of the Year.

Junior Gloucester Rugby Camp // Chosen Hill RFC
£60 for 2 days // Thurs 4 – Fri 5 August
Led by Terry Fanolua, Gloucester and Samoan International, and experienced Community Coaches, the camp will offer players of all abilities the opportunity to get the latest rugby tips straight from the top.

Summer Fireworks // Gloucester Park
Free entry // Sat 6 August
Watch this fabulous display with music and food available from 7pm.

Wilson’s Fun Fair // Gloucester Park
Free entry // until Sun 7 August
All the fun of the fair with all rides £1 on super saver Tuesdays.

Jamaican Independence Day Celebrations // Gloucester Park
Free entry // Sun 7 August
Arts and crafts, school games, tug of war and a football tournament. Come and see the local performers and make your own kite while eating Caribbean food.

Cathedral Library Tours // Gloucester Cathedral
£7 for over 16s // Sat 13 August
A rare chance to visit the beautiful 15th century monastic library, located high above the main body of the cathedral.

The Walk of Life // Gloucester Cathedral
Mon 15 – Tues 30 August
Visitors are invited to remove their shoes and walk the Cathedral Labyrinth, a copy of the one in the Chartres Cathedral in France.

Murder Mystery // Hallmark Hotel
£29.95 per person // Fri 19 August
A game of murder mystery where party-goers are secretly, and unknowingly, playing a murderer, and other attendees must determine who is the criminal. Includes a three course meal and disco.

Sportbeat Music Festival // Oxstalls Sports Park
Prices vary on website // Sat 20 – Sun 21 August
Family friendly music festival with sports and attractions for all age groups.

Tea and Tales // St Mary de Crypt
Free entry // Tuesdays weekly until Tues 23 August
Enjoy the magic, mystery and fun of reading with Chloe of the Midnight Storytellers. Tea, squash and cakes available.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP Comments on Gloucestershire Hospitals Announcement Regarding A&E Waiting Times

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has said that while the Gloucestershire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s announcement that it was in ‘breach of licence’ for continuing to miss the Accident and Emergency four-hour standard was ‘a serious issue which needs to be put right’, his constituents should know that ‘some improvements had been made since the spring and that other steps have been agreed going forward’.

The City MP said that he had spoken to the Trust about their commitment to sort the issue before the winter pressures that come annually.

“I have no doubt,” said Richard, “that staff will do their best, and I ask constituents thinking of going to A&E to exercise real judgment about whether it is necessary.”

Richard added that he and Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk would meet with the Trust formally in late September to see what progress had been made.

Meanwhile the Gloucester MP said, “I’ll be volunteering at the Hospital again in mid-August and will get an update of how things are going then.”

Green Flag Award

One of best things about the City of Gloucester is the amount of open space we have. The best of all by a long way, a minor miracle of geography and sensible policy, is Robinswood Hill. It is, alongside the Cathedral (which is man’s contribution), what makes Gloucester unique. So it is really nice that it has been awarded the Green Flag award.

But it’s not the only show in town as Barnwood Park and Arboretum are also very special. Go to the far end of the Park and photograph back towards St Lawrence’s and very few people will know or guess you’re in the middle of a city. Except residents who’ve discovered it.

In the summer holidays I recommend that every parent of a child aged 3 or over goes to Barnwood Park and Arboretum, and if I could wave a wand it would be for every child of 5 to walk with their parents up Robinswood Hill to the beacon and just soak in the bigness of what Gloucestershire is all about. Our giant slithering dragon of a river, the Cotswold and Malvern Hills, the poplar trees by the golf course tumbling down to the earth roof of Gloucester Services and much much more. They may need to go on your shoulders at some point – either way they won’t forget.13781849_791851114284980_69089623151976450_n

The Collapse of BHS

Sir Philip Green and Richard Graham MP

Sir Philip Green and Richard Graham MP

 

Our new Prime Minister has promised to get ‘tough on irresponsible behaviour in big business’. The report today of our joint Select Committee on the collapse of BHS offers a case study of what can go wrong at a company almost 90 years old and why she is right that government must react.

After over 20 years in international business, I thought little would surprise me. But what emerged from the evidence of the long, and ultimately unhappy, saga of BHS under Sir Philip Green’s stewardship was worse than I expected.

We learnt, above all else, that BHS was run like a medieval fiefdom, with absolute control by the Boss, shaky governance, and only lip service responsibility to its defined benefit (DB) pension fund.

The story of the pension scheme in fact mirrors the business, which lurched from profitability to loss (1999-2006), then financial crisis and now administration. The pension scheme went from (£43m +) surplus to (£350m +) deficit and was then steered to the care home for Defined Benefit schemes – the Pension Protection Fund where benefits are reduced. For almost ten years previously Philip Green had said at various times, and to different people, that he would sort out the pension fund. But when push came to shove he never did so 20,000 pensioners may get less deferred salary as a result. Why?

Green had no need to do anything originally, when the business was enjoying a contribution holiday, and only focused when the scheme went into deficit. He considered insurance buyout solutions, and then a wider solution (Project Thor), which might have worked if he had given enough information to the Pensions Regulator (TPR). But as the Chairman of the Scheme Trustees noted, Sir Philip objected to TPR ‘trawling through ten years of Bullshit’. His proposal for staggered injections over 23 years stretched belief: and he then rushed through the sale of the company to a totally inexperienced retailer, without telling either the Chairman of the Trustees or TPR. The evidence suggests Green was as keen to be shed of the pension scheme as the business, and that Dominic Chappell was steam rollered into agreeing the terms, through greed and naivety.

There is a wider issue here – of what would prevent other owners of businesses with DB schemes from selling their businesses in a hurry, regardless of their obligations. That’s why I strongly recommend it be mandatory for TPR to report on the health of the pension scheme for any potential buyer of a business with a DB scheme, just as a mortgage lender requires a valuation of a property: then everyone knows exactly what the situation is.

As it is, we are left with Philip Green’s word that he will see the pensioners right. After hearing that Green told Dominic Chappell, eventual buyer of BHS, that he would get the company ‘pension free’, I wouldn’t bet the ranch on this happening. Philip Green’s reputation hangs on a thread. I hope he seizes the moment to do the right thing and inject enough capital into the scheme for it to continue outside the PPF, without members taking a haircut. It would be the best result of a long inquiry into one of Britain’s less glorious corporate episodes.

You can read the full report here.

« Older Entries