Category Archives: Campaigns and Issues

City MP formally opens the canopy on the bridge at Gloucester Rail Station: ‘one more step in the right direction’

Today a small piece of railway history is made at Gloucester’s Railway Station when MP Richard Graham formally opens the first ever canopy on the bridge between platforms. “The station has been here for almost 150 years” said the city MP “and now, for the first time, you can cross between platforms 2 and 4 without getting wet. It’s one more step in the right direction of having a station fit for this century and ready for more passengers and more rail services at Gloucester.”

The MP thanked Network Rail for keeping to its word of installing the canopy before Christmas. “When the main recent refurbishment was completed – including the vital lifts that enable older and disabled passengers or those with heavy baggage to cross over easily – a canopy was the one obvious new ingredient the station would benefit from. I’ve been on the case regularly for over a year and am grateful that Network Rail has now found the money and installed a canopy. It will make a real difference to people’s experience of travelling by train from Gloucester”.

Rail passenger Colin Hutchinson from Quedgeley said, “this is great news – at last we have a canopy over the bridge. I remember what the station was like ten years. It’s changed a lot over the years and like the rest of the city is definitely on the up now”.

Richard added “I hope to have further news on exciting future developments after the New Year. Station infrastructure improvements are important as our passenger growth is well above the national average and we must prepare for additional services, which in turn will lead to more growth”.

The city MP recently held talks with Arriva about its Cross Country franchise, which will be renewed in 2016. The MP has publicly already made clear that he will make the case for additional Cross Country intercity services to stop at Gloucester as part of the new franchise agreement. “It was a helpful discussion” Richard said “and I will also be meeting the Department for Transport after the New Year.”

NOTES

Richard opened the new lifts that followed platform improvements as part of Network Rail/First Great Western project at the station in May 2013, after campaigning for these since 2007.

Gloucester MP calls for work to start on Elmbridge Court roundabout

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham has called for work to start as soon as possible on the A417/A40 roundabouts at Elmbridge Court and Over.

Describing both roundabouts as ‘bottlenecks overripe for improvement’, the city MP said that changes to the roundabouts and their traffic lights could make the same difference as the successful changes to the C&G and Walls roundabouts in Gloucester.

“We all want to increase productivity in the county and reduce car journey time, petrol consumption and carbon emissions”, said Richard; “sitting in queues for roundabouts doesn’t help – joining the Elmbridge roundabout from Gloucester’s Cheltenham Road can be a nightmare. So I’m convinced the sooner we start on the Elmbridge roundabout the quicker we can make real progress on all these goals. The next one to be tackled would then be the Over roundabout, which could be much more efficient.”

The MP, writing to Gloucestershire County Council Leader Mark Hawthorne, recommended that Gloucestershire Highways urgently consider bringing forward this element of the government financed Elmbridge Transport Scheme. “ If these roundabouts could be tackled in turn with the same speed and urgency as the Eastern Avenue roundabouts that would seriously improve the county’s road infrastructure,” concluded Gloucester’s MP.

MPs welcome early Christmas present for Elmbridge & Longlevens as parcel collection reverts to Brockworth

L-R: Leighton Burman, Royal Mail, Paul James City Cllr Longlevens , Richard Graham MP, Kathy Williams County Cllr Longlevens & Elmbridge, Laurence Robertson MP and R Mail staff at the Brockworth Sorting Office

L-R: Leighton Burman, Royal Mail, Paul James City Cllr Longlevens , Richard Graham MP, Kathy Williams County Cllr Longlevens & Elmbridge, Laurence Robertson MP and R Mail staff at the Brockworth Sorting Office

Following a campaign by City MP Richard Graham and Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, all residents of Longlevens and Elmbridge will be able to collect parcels from Royal Mail’s Brockworth sorting office again rather than Quedgeley. This will be effective from November 24th – just in time for the Christmas rush.

Richard said “Residents will be delighted with this early Christmas present. Our surveys showed strong support for collecting parcels from Brockworth and I’m delighted Royal Mail has agreed to change their operations in time for Christmas. All credit to them for having listened to their customers, as they did in Tuffley and Grange earlier this year. This is proof that that filling in surveys from MPs can make a difference, so thank you to all residents who replied.’

Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson said, “This is good news for my constituents in Longlevens, who will soon be able to collect their undelivered post from Brockworth, which is what they have been asking for. Richard and I carried out an extensive survey on this, and I’m pleased Royal Mail has come up with this sensible solution”.

Leighton Burman, delivery sector manager, Royal Mail, said: “We acknowledge the strength of feeling locally about the preferred location for collection of undelivered mail. We are currently trialling returning undelivered items for residents in the GL2 0 postcode area for collection the following day at our Gloucester North office at Brockworth. As we’re introducing this change at our busiest time of year, we encourage customers to allow the time window indicated on their ‘something for you’ cards to elapse before attempting collection. This will be 24 hours to allow for additional processing and transfer to North Delivery office at Brockworth for collection”.

County Cllr Kathy Williams added “Thanks to our MPs for mediating, and to Royal Mail for agreeing to this change for Elmbridge and Longlevens residents to collect their parcels from Brockworth. Make sure you wait 24 hours before collecting!”

Gloucester Football & Meadow Park

After the floods of 2007 Gloucester City Football Club had to play their home games in Cheltenham. A huge amount of time and money has since been spent on coming up with the best possible plan to protect the Meadow Park ground and neighbouring homes against potential future floods.
It has been uphill work, with Environment Agency and City Council officials cautious of changing flood patterns. But after 7 years in the wilderness it’s fantastic that Gloucester City Football Club is to return to Gloucester and all young players can be inspired in our own City!

Let’s push the A417 missing link petition

The Air Balloon roundabout delays traffic, reduces productivity, prevents movement of goods in and out of Gloucestershire, is an impediment to economic growth AND is the direct cause of accidents, damaging vehicles of all kinds and destroying lives. On all grounds the case for the A417 loop is not just a nice to have but a need to have.

But it won’t happen without our county, and neighbouring counties equally affected, getting off our collective bottom and forming a wall of opinion to make this a government priority. It is much too expensive a problem for businesses and individuals to expect parliamentarians and councils alone to deliver. We need people power too. Sign the petition on http://a417missinglink.co.uk/contact/ now!

 

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Improving Our Schools – Gloucester Academy

One of my core missions is to give all possible help to schools in Gloucester, and especially the weaker ones.

On May 6th 2010, two minutes after I was elected, Radio Glos asked me what my first priority was. I said to make the Gloucester Academy happen. And I worked to hard to make it happen, to get the money and support from the DofE, to persuade GlosCol to be involved at the beginning and so on.

But the aim behind creating the Academy, and the new build, was not for a new structure or architectural improvements in themselves – it was always to see greatly improved results and opportunities for pupils who had had a bad deal at Bishops College and Central and, all too often, were on the lists of youth unemployment because their English and Maths weren’t good enough.  For Michael Gove, Schools Minister Nick Gibb and all involved at the school the aim was to resolve that – using all the tools we could, including fantastic facilities.

In late August the GCSE results for 2014 arrived. What were they and how is the Academy doing? Are we on the right track?

Here is an e mail which I received about this:

With regard to the academy for it it to boast a 38% pass is totally DISGUSTING!! To be proud of such POOR FIGURES is beyond me If that is all I achieved I would hide in a corner. But with pathetic teaching you cannot expect much. Should be shut down or at at least a total sacking of staff and a completely new teaching team put in place. They should repay there wages and GO!

Here is my reply:

Thanks for your mail.

Five years ago the 5 core GCSE A-C grade pass rate at one of the two predecessor schools of the Gloucester Academy was 11%. It was the second lowest score of any secondary school in the whole country.

The result last week of 38% is 10% up on last year, three and a half times better than that result in 2009 and quite a long way from the lowest score in the country.

It is also the lowest score of a secondary school in Gloucester, and just below the Department of Education 40% base to come out of special measures.

So what is the right way to react? On the one hand, in absolute terms, this is not a score to be proud of and one EVERYBODY wants to see rise – and it must and will rise considerably in the future. That is the school’s most important mission, which will see more opportunities for young people from often deprived backgrounds.

On the other we should recognise that the school is now on a journey, is on the up and should be congratulated on every successful step – while being urged on towards the next steps. In simple terms I would like to see the Gloucester Academy get as close to 50% next year as possible.

It can be done. The results at Severn Vale have gone from 12% to 65% during the twelve years Peter Rowland was Head and Dave Bishop has overseen Beaufort’s results from 42% to 51% in his second year as Head. Showk Badat has led the Academy’s results to increase by 10% in his first year and that is a very promising start. Our Academy – with all staff, parents and pupils working together – can take pride that they’re in the right track, and push on in 2015-16.

So while it is easy to snipe from the sidelines, the business of improving schools needs determination, discipline, hard work and stability and consistency of leadership. I believe the Gloucester Academy now has the right ingredients, I know the leadership is committed – and we should support them in getting on with the job.

I hope everyone will give their support, because the regeneration of our city needs ALL our schools to succeed.

Best regards

Richard

Royal Mail Parcel Collection

This is a good victory for common sense, determination and constituent feedback.

I’m really grateful to all those who helped me to help residents of Tuffley and Grange.

A few months ago I discovered that Tuffley and Grange had to collect their parcels from Brockworth instead of Quedgeley – averaging a 5 mile longer journey, bus changes and the overall taking up of time/money and trouble especially for older constituents in these wards.

I then embarked on a campaign to persuade Royal Mail to change their operations and surveyed all 5000 households in Grange and Tuffley to find out residents views.

Faced with overwhelming evidence (99%) from a response rate of almost 50%, Royal Mail readily agreed to change their operations to allow for all these residents to collect their parcels from Quedgeley again starting from the 1st August 2014.

Following on from this great success there was the reverse issue in Elmbridge, Longlevens and other villages in Tewkesbury to resolve with neighbouring MP Laurence Robinson.

It was great that once again Royal Mail saw common sense and agreed that the residents of Elmbridge and Longlevens should collect parcels from Brockworth rather than Quedgeley. This became effective on November 24th – just in time for the Christmas rush!

This is proof that filling in surveys from MPs can make a difference, so thank you to all residents who replied.

The document below is the letter I sent to all those who had written personally to me.

Gloucester MP hails triumph of common sense on parcel collection

 Following a campaign by city MP Richard Graham, from 1 August this year all residents of Tuffley and Grange wards in Gloucester will again be able to collect parcels from Royal Mail at the Quedgeley sorting office rather than Brockworth.

 Richard said: “I welcome Royal Mail’s reversal. My survey showed residents were almost unanimously in favour of collecting parcels from Quedgeley, which on average is five mails closer to them than Brockworth. Full credit to Royal Mail for having listened and changing their operations to allow for this.”

The MP noted that “this was a good day to announce the change, as the Mayor and I are opening the expanded and improved customer service area at Quedgeley.”

Richard noted that this is not the end of the issue: “residents of Elmbridge and Longlevens have the flip side of the changes to deal with: they now collect from Quedgeley but it would be quicker for them to revert to Brockworth.”

Leighton Burman, Delivery Sector Manager, Royal Mail said, “Royal Mail acknowledges the strength of feeling locally about the preferred location for collection of undelivered mail – and is currently scoping the viability of returning undelivered items to Quedgeley for collection the following day.  Once complete, our aim is to commence a six month trial of the service from 1 August  – which will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure it meets our customers’ and business requirements”

The MP has agreed with Royal Mail to work with Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson to run a similar survey in those wards (Longlevens is in Tewkesbury constituency), and other villages affected.

‘The principle of what is right on one side of our city has to be right on the other side too. There is a cost involved for Royal Mail and so it is important to see the strength of feeling of residents’ said Gloucester’s MP.

Gloucester MP wins national award for campaign for tougher sentences for banned drivers who kill

mandy2City MP Richard Graham has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for his campaign for tougher sentences for disqualified, unlicensed and uninsured drivers who kill and injure.

Richard started his campaign in 2013 after his constituent Paul Stock was run down and killed by disqualified and uninsured motorcyclist Graham Godwin. Despite having multiple previous driving convictions, Godwin could only be sentenced to two years in prison – the maximum for causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.

Paul’s widow, Mandy Stock, wrote to Richard, calling for a change in the law to allow judges to hand out higher sentences. She argued that sentences should better reflect the devastation caused by drivers who kill when they have no right to be on the road, echoing Brake’s Crackdown campaign.

Richard took up Mandy’s call, asking a question on the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions in January 2013, and the Prime Minister agreed that the problem had to be addressed. Richard arranged for Mandy to speak with both the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling personally in the following weeks. The Justice Secretary promised to take action.

Finally, on 6 May 2014, Chris Grayling announced that the maximum sentence for causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured will rise to 10 years, with a maximum of four years for causing serious injuries. The Justice Secretary also announced a wider review of all driving offences, to take place over the next few months, which Brake has welcomed.

Richard Graham said: “This award helps highlight that sentences for disqualified drivers who kill are being changed because of my work with, and for, my widowed constituent Mandy Stock. It reminds everyone that individuals can make a difference when a government is prepared to listen. If just one life a year is saved, our country will be a better place.”

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “Unlicensed, disqualified and uninsured drivers have no right to be on the road; if they kill or injure someone, it inflicts needless devastation as the result of a deliberate and illegal choice, and the penalty must reflect that. That’s why tackling woefully inadequate sentences for these selfish individuals is a cornerstone of Brake’s Crackdown campaign. We are extremely grateful for the way Richard Graham has supported his constituent, Mandy Stock, in bringing this injustice to the government’s attention, with such a positive result. As such, we are very pleased to recognise him as our road safety Parliamentarian of the Month.”

Work Assessments and Atos

It is right that everyone receiving disability benefits, whether Incapacity Benefits or Disability Living Allowance should be reviewed to see whether they should still receive taxpayer funded help, and if so whether more, less or the same amount.

But it was wrong that the contractor appointed by Labour to do those assessments had a monopoly. Without the pressure of competition, and a tougher relationship between reward and performance, any contractor has less incentive to deliver.

That has been very clear to me in Gloucestershire. Some of my constituents have been seriously affected by long delays in or changes to assessments or appointments, and then sometimes a long wait for appeals. Although the numbers are small as a % of the population or even of those assessed, any additional stress for some seriously ill people and their families or carers can be individually very damaging.

My constituents’ experiences got me involved, inspired me to do an e news (see that part of this website), made the Minister better informed and have helped lead to changes by Atos and eventually in the contractor.

This is what I wrote to all those who wrote to me on this issue: Atos letter.

If any of my constituents still has a significant delay for an assessment or appeal please let me know.

Update June 2014

Because of some evidence of continuing issues either with delayed work assessments or benefits claims, in late May I wrote to key organisations like the CAB, GEAR, GARAS, GL Communities and selected charities helping constituents with delayed health assessments/benefit claims. My letter is here: ATOS letter

If any constituent of mine in Gloucester is suffering from unreasonable delays or bureaucracy please do refer them to me.

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