Category Archives: E-News

Gloucester’s Exam Results and Jobs: More skills and more in work

Richard opening the Performing Arts building at the University of Gloucestershire with students

Richard opening the Performing Arts building at the University of Gloucestershire with students

We’ve now had A level and GCSE results, university applications – and all the usual photos of pupils jumping for joy. Were results up, down, or the same and how is that translating into jobs?

Nationally there was a real effort to avoid any grade inflation, but overall our local students have done very well and should be proud. There was good news at many schools – including record ever A level results for example at the Crypt.

With 424,000 students accepted into UK universities and colleges so far, there’s already been an increase of 3% in the numbers of undergraduates nationally, and an increase of 9% in applications to the University of Gloucestershire.

There were also more acceptances nationally for mature students and the gap between male and female undergraduates has reduced. Interestingly too – and contrary to what some claim – the proportion of English 18 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds applying has gone up 7% since 2009.

At the same time many more school leavers are taking up apprenticeships – both Ribston and St Peters specifically referred to this in their comments on results – and the combination of more students taking up both undergraduate and apprenticeship opportunities should mean better skills levels, and in time higher paid jobs. Average wage levels are up 2.3% nationally so far this year.

Better results in exams from pupils all over Gloucester and an increase in jobs available has resulted in steadily improving youth unemployment figures (now nearly a quarter of what it was in 2012 at just 2.6%, see graph below).

This is all encouraging. Remember meanwhile if you haven’t yet got the University offer you want then make sure to read the UCAS advice on Clearing open until 20 September.

Also good apprenticeships are sometimes only marketed on employers’ websites, especially public services like the NHS. Glos Care Services in particular are hiring more and our Hospitals Trust has a big programme. Do check out the NHS careers websiteGlos Jobs, and the Gov.UK apprenticeship search engine.

There’s always more to be done which is why the move of our University’s Business School from Cheltenham to Gloucester, our bid for a new Gloucestershire Health University Technical College and a pilot training Nursing Associates programme through higher apprenticeships is good news.

Then there is Glos Engineering Training’s bid for funds to train more engineers for the food and beverage sector. What else do you think we could do more of to increase our skills, and therefore chances to get good jobs? Do let me know what you think about this at

Best regards







Youth unemployment rate in Gloucester (%)

Youth unemployment rate in Gloucester (%)


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

Best regards






Richard outside the George Whitfield Centre with the team

Richard outside the George Whitfield Centre with the team


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

Best regards

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.

Today is the day..when we decide our relations with our neighbours

with the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Neil Carmichael MP and Alex Chalk MP

with the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Neil Carmichael MP and Alex Chalk MP

It’s gone on a long time: important, frustrating, emotional; and a source of endless argument. It is the Referendum – and many of my constituents are still unsure which way to vote. I break the issues into five: the Big Picture, Money, Security, Sovereignty and Immigration.

The Big Picture. I believe we need as many friends and allies as possible: in the UN Security Council, at the heart of the Commonwealth, the G7 & NATO, in a special relationship with the US, a strategic partnership with China, very close to Ireland – and a member of the EU. We are smaller by losing any of these.

And our history is one of tremors from quakes on the continent. We’ve often had to intervene and make war to keep the peace, and above all keep the balance of power – preventing dominance by any one country, which is always bad for us. Whether against Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler or Russian communism, we’ve teamed up with a coalition of the willing to stop them – like the Welsh archers, Eugene of Savoy, Blucher and the Polish and Commonwealth airmen. England has never fought alone in Europe.

Money. Almost everyone, including the leading Brexiters, recognise there’ll be a hit if we leave, as sterling drops, inflation rises and interest rates and mortgages go up. The markets have already shown what they can do. I worry about how quickly things would recover, how long it would take to replace the 53 Free Trade Agreements the EU already has, and the long term impact of trade duties on e.g. our aerospace exports to Airbus in Toulouse. Short term this would inevitably lead to less tax revenue for the NHS and other public services – and for how long we just don’t know.

Security. There is no single global policeman today. We need maximum co-operation against e.g. terrorists, especially with our nearest neighbours. Our security could not be increased by acting more alone, without the European Arrest Warrant, or by having the refugee camps at Calais moved to Dover. Home to GCHQ and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), in Gloucestershire we know the value of partnerships and sharing information carefully.

Of course immigration and sovereignty are also argued over. I hear comments like ‘I want my country back’, ‘our infrastructure can’t cope’ and ‘so many of our jobs are taken by foreigners’.  Nor can these just be dismissed. We must make our own decisions in our own Parliament: but we can also accept legislation e.g. to protect workers’ rights, improve our beaches and water that came from the EU: 14% of our total laws. And when it comes to sovereignty I see no advantage to business in not having a voice at the table on decisions that affect almost half of our exports.

Ultimately, I don’t see leaving the EU will solve immigration – are we going to ask weekending French to apply for a visa, or a German engineer visiting his business here to apply for a work permit? No. Or if yes, then increase the cost of leaving as we axe cheap flights to Europe, many jobs at airports and across the travel industry.

In a nutshell if we want free trade then we pay the club sub and accept free movement to work – we just lose any role in decisions. If we don’t want free trade then watch out for the hit to jobs and the 75% of tax from business.

If we want the surest prospects of future jobs for our children then let’s make the European partnership work, recognising some compromise in all partnerships. And if we’re concerned about immigration and pressures on schools etc then yes, push at us MPs to do more – taking out from the stats students who pay for our universities would make sense – but leaving the EU is not a solution to that. Ultimately the complete lack of detail about what the Leave campaign would do is a huge risk, and although safety is not as sexy as risk, this is a risk I wouldn’t recommend at all.

Best regards


Home Grown Nurses for Gloucestershire

Trudi carrying on nursing in the Glos Royal Hospital

Trudi carrying on nursing in the Glos Royal Hospital

Hardly a day passes without a newspaper putting the words ‘crisis’ and ‘NHS’ together. In Chinese there are two characters for crisis, and they literally translate as ‘danger opportunity’. This e news highlights one crisis in Gloucestershire healthcare – and three steps we’re taking to make the most of an opportunity, and to avoid the danger.

In an earlier e news I touched on one aspect: our bid this autumn for a Gloucestershire Health University Technical College (UTC). I pointed out that the health sector is our biggest employer in the county (50,000 jobs) and city (12,000), and giving pupils a chance to get Btecs in Health and Care, alongside GCSEs and A levels, plus masses of health related work experience, should open up many job opportunities for them later.

But there is still a skills training gap after school – especially for nurses. Every year we need over 400 new nurses for the needs of our 3 NHS Trusts, many private care homes, the Winfield Hospital and GPs surgeries.At the moment we aren’t training anything like that number in our county, and I want to share what we intend to do about this.

Under the old system there was a top down decision on how many nursing places to offer, and a local monopoly on pre-registration training with the University of the West of England (UWE), which has a base in Gloucester Docks but couldn’t produce nearly enough nurses for our needs. As a result Gloucestershire has been importing nurses from all over the country, Spain, Portugal and more recently the Philippines. Twice I’ve had to write to Home Secretary Theresa May to seek her support for our Hospitals Trust to recruit more Filipinos and Filipinas to come and work here.

Don’t get me wrong on this: I once ran an airline in Manila, love the country, speak their language and am currently the PM’s Trade Envoy for the Philippines. But I don’t think the best solution for Gloucestershire is to rely on Philippines nationals for our nursing needs. We should be able to train our own nurses locally.

In the brave new world quotas and monopolies are done away, allowing anyone to apply to study nursing and any university to apply to train them, making the provision of skills locally much more possible. Yes nurses will get loans not grants now, but there are much more generous maintenance grants to recognise nursing undergraduates have little time to earn while doing their required work experience. The door is now open for lots more Gloucestershire nursing students, who are more likely to stay in our county when trained in Cheltenham and Gloucester – IF our local university can offer the course.

So the crucial development, which I hope we’ll hear about next week, is how the Uni of Glos can move forward with NHS and other health partners to get that approval. If it does, that paves the way for the third element in our nursing strategy that I am very keen on: a pilot project for Nursing Associates.

The plan from this government is for a 2 year Higher Apprenticeship course as the qualification for a Nursing Associate, who will fulfill many vital nursing tasks. Ministers need to agree and confirm the regulatory arrangements and then enable the Health Executive to run pilot projects. I’ve raised with the Prime Ministers, Ministers and the Health Executive my strong enthusiasm and support for the Uni of Glos to run one of these pilots, with training and work experience in both Gloucester and Cheltenham.

My neighbour in Cheltenham Alex Chalk MP completely agrees that if we had a UTC, a Nursing Associates pilot project and pre-registration training all available in our county then we would have the potential to become one of the leading areas of home grown health sector specialists. We both feel this would make a huge difference to jobs being won locally, to patients and to both public and private bodies in the healthcare sector.

So keep an eye out for local news on courses for pre-registration nurses at the University of Gloucestershire: for a national announcement on the establishment on Nursing Associates, and then the opportunity for our Uni to train Nursing Associates here in Glos.

Alongside news of our UTC bid early next year, having a Nursing Associates pilot scheme and training more nurses for degrees locally would mean great opportunities, not dangers. Over time we could even get rid of the word ‘crisis’ when it comes to nursing provision in Gloucestershire. It’s a goal worth going for.

What do you think about these ideas for training more home grown nurses? Let me know at

Best regards

Where Exports Meet Compassion


Last week three Gloucester companies – Helipebs (manufacturing cylinders), Advanced Insulation (manufacturing thermal insulation and fire protection) and Only Natural Products (packaging tea) – won Queen’s Awards for Enterprise (exporting). Only 11 businesses in the South West (population six million) were honoured so this was an amazing Gloucester performance.

Our winners follow successes by other Gloucester businesses like Severn Glocon and Prima Dental, showing our city continues to manufacture, service and trade as it always has done – backed by export support.

I’ve played a modest role in this, both as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy (to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the ASEAN Economic Community) and as Chair of the All-Party Group for China. Last month I helped host the first visit by Indonesian President Jokowi, and we signed deals worth about £15 billion, with plenty more to come. Every Airbus purchased by Garuda Indonesian Airlines (all with Rolls Royce engines, Made in Wales wings and Made in Glos landing gear) feeds directly into supply chains that employ many.

And although you can buy almost everything through the internet, relationships are still crucial to exports. We saw that with the new deal between Helipebs and the Chinese oil and gas producer JMP from in Western China. I know the area well – and if I can use my experience to benefit other good local contractors so much the better.

Business matters because it pays 75 per cent of all our tax revenue – paying especially for health, education, welfare and pensions. If our businesses do badly, we wouldn’t have the money for Europe’s best welfare system, let alone the extra £10 billion put in the NHS.

The growth in jobs that have more than halved Gloucester’s unemployment, or apprenticeships that have reduced youth unemployment by 75 per cent over the last six years, would dry up. So there would be less money for welfare just when it would be needed most.

Put simply, we need Glosterpreneurs, like the new Indectron data service I cut a sod for last week, to thrive.

Over the last few months too I’ve encouraged our NHS Glos Care Services to relocate from Southgate St. and have better facilities for their Health for the Homeless service in the same building as our Foodbank. They have now been there a month. We should be proud of it. Meanwhile the Gloucester City Mission is moving there. And I’ve had meetings with Employment Minister Priti Patel about basing a DWP Advisor there, who can both check benefit issues for Foodbank users, and steer unemployed people back to work.

Our provision is ahead of many other cities, helped by business succeeding, tax revenues rising, and using our influence effectively.

What sometimes gets forgotten is the link between business and charity. We must never forget those who day after day are working hard to build local businesses that employ our children and pay the taxes for the services we cherish. We can, and must, support enterprise while also being compassionate.

Do let me know of any other great Gloucester exporters I haven’t mentioned here on

Best regards

A Test Case for Community Solutions – The Curious Case of the Ridge & Furrow

With Secret Garden Nursery owner Charlie Perkins at the Ridge

With Secret Garden Nursery owner Charlie Perkins at the Ridge

Why does an MP get involved in the future of a pub that’s already closed?

That’s the question I asked myself over two years ago, when I read about Morrisons supermarket’s announcement of their decision to apply for a petrol station on the site of the ex Ridge & Furrow pub.

The answer was that I didn’t believe a ‘study’ by their consultant claiming residents were resolutely behind this idea. It was partly that the site is not ideal for a petrol station – beside a popular GPs’ surgery and a stream, raising questions about run off and environmental pollution, and partly because this wasn’t what residents were telling me on the doorstep.

So I did my own survey to thousands of residents, with a very high response rate, which confirmed my suspicions with almost 70% against. This destroyed the supermarket case that the petrol station was wanted.

So the scene was set for a planning battle – in fact several battles, including an appeal. All were lost by Morrisons, the last appeal only recently. We – principally a good combination of motivated residents, dedicated Councillors and a planning expert giving his time free of charge – got the pub listed as an asset of community value: the City Council did its objective job well and the right result was reached (even if I thought for the wrong reasons, but let’s not go there).

Victory? Only in a negative sense. Almost three years on the site is still boarded up, the car park blocked by rocks, the garden untended and no-one living in Abbey can be proud of that. Having got involved in the principle of local feeling, I didn’t, and don’t, think I can walk away at this stage from residents who feel ‘OK, what now?’

I feel an obligation to work with those opposed to a petrol station to find what would be good, and to get a solution. The starting point was Morrisons. So I’ve been in contact and am delighted that this week, after a few mails and a conversation, the supermarket has confirmed that they have no plan to try again with another planning application for a petrol station. That’s a welcome step forward and I’m grateful to the supermarket for confirming it.

The next point is then what the community think would be a popular solution. I have have had suggestions of a nursery from several operators, and the concept of a nursery as well as a pub or family restaurant from Charlie Perkins of the Secret Garden, a stunning Eastgate St. nursery.

Morrisons is not selling the site, so there is no opportunity at the moment for a community buy-out. Trust Inns remains the lessee, which means dealing with them. And as my father (who has been in the pub business for a long time) said, there probably isn’t enough to feed three mouths – landlord, lessee and a tenant manager.

At this stage a sensible MP would probably be slipping away from the battlefield – announcing victory, and letting others try and untangle the future. But I don’t feel I can do that. Victory is when a viable business provides a useful new service to the local Abbeydale and Abbeymead community, pays a commercial rent to the landlord and earns a decent living at the old Ridge & Furrow. We’re still a long way from that.

So the next stage is:

1. Seeing who might be interested in establishing a business there (ideas please, even though no specification or rent details are available)

2. Hearing what residents would most value (ditto: ideas please)

3. Discussing with Trust Inns their plans and interest in the site

I will write to Trust Inns on that point, although they weren’t very forthcoming last time I contacted them, and something tells me this is going to need intervention high up. If that’s what it takes then so be it. This Jack Russell doesn’t give up easily.

Meanwhile, if you know of an interesting business looking for a new hub in a great location, then do let me know. I hope there will be enough interest for a community meeting before long.

This is all taking time: is it worthwhile? I think so, but I’m conscious that we are all impatient nowadays, and I share any frustration readers may have. The good news is that we are now over the petrol station phase of the site and can focus on a bold alternatives.

Let me know your thoughts on solutions on

Best regards

Gloucester and Cheltenham MPs Call for Longer Max Stalking Sentence

With Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk at our stalking report launch

With Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk at our stalking report launch

Until May 2015 all I knew about stalking was what I’d read in the papers, and heard from some colleagues in Parliament (a surprising number of whom have been stalked). But then I learnt about Dr Eleanor Aston, a GP in Gloucester and Cheltenham resident.

Ellie doesn’t fit the general preconception of people who get stalked. She’s a doctor, not a film star or publicity craving celebrity. And for eight years one of my constituents, Raymond Knight, stalked her. He made over a hundred visits to her office. He slashed her tyres, cut a water pipe at her home and showed up at birthday parties where her children were present. He sent her foul packages and probably tried to burn down her house, though this wasn’t proved. When he came out after a brief prison sentence within 24 hours Dr Aston got an anonymous letter with three words: ‘guess who’s back?’

Raymond Knight made Ellie Aston and her family’s lives absolute hell, as Judge Jamie Tabor noted when sentencing him again last year. He judged Mr Knight was a significant risk of doing this hard working GP and mother serious harm, and he said that if he could put Raymond Knight behind bars for longer he would. But the law didn’t allow a longer sentence than 5 years – which translates into about two years actually in prison.

That is less than you can get for stealing a Mars bar from a shop. The Judge felt the law needed changing and common sense meant this simply couldn’t be right. Alex Chalk, Ellie’s MP, and I both felt we should do something. So we have.

Alex had an adjournment debate on the issue and spoke to Justice Secretary Michael Gove. I raised it at Prime Minister’s Questions and we discussed the law on stalking with Justice Minister Dominic Raab together. We pooled resources, and decided to advance from a local horror story to a national report. This was hugely helped by the fact that Alex is a distinguished lawyer. Our offices researched widely into stalking and sentences, taking evidence from victims. Stalking charities like the Suzie Lamplugh Trust, the Paladin Trust and many other individuals kindly shared their experiences and wisdom with us. what did we learn?

Firstly that stalking is often obsessive and can go on for years: but that victims sometimes wait for as many as 100 incidents before reporting them to the police. Then we found that the average custodial sentence served for stalking is only 10 months, although families can often be devastated by released stalkers immediately re-offending: this is true of almost half those convicted. I met a constituent who has been so badly stalked by a former partner that she had to abandon her job and her family, and lives in a safe house far from Gloucester. An expert from the University of Gloucestershire, who also sits on Domestic Homicide Review Boards, explained most of the cases she sees have some link to stalking.One campaigner said: “This is about murder prevention.”

We concluded that the law, in too many cases, wasn’t doing its job – either to protect the victim and her family for very long, or to allow for treatment of a serious mental health issue effectively. And this strengthened our determination to achieve something worthwhile, to make sentences longer for the most serious stalkers, protect the stalked person and family better, and pave the way for recommendations from people better qualified than us on rehabilitation. We decided to go for a single, reasonable, justifiable, simple and clear recommendation: to double the maximum sentence from five to ten years, at the Judge’s discretion.

Yesterday we presented our report and goal to the media in Gloucestershire, and we’ll do the same at a bigger event in Parliament later this month. It may be the first ever national report done together by the MPs for Cheltenham and Gloucester – certainly hard to imagine such a partnership between our predecessors – and it was very good that both Dr Aston and Nick Gazzard of the Hollie Gazzard Trust joined us and have been so supportive.

Our next aim is to get as much cross party and national media support as possible, to encourage the government to have a Criminal Justice Bill in the Queen’s Speech – a Bill that would, we hope, include our recommendation on stalking.

Can we succeed? It’s possible. Two years ago I helped get the maximum sentence for causing serious injury when driving disqualified increased to 14 years in the Dangerous Driving Law 2014 through a similar process. Ministers will consider a strong case, especially where it is likely to affect both a small number of very dangerous people and save lives.

There is no reason why anyone else should go through what Dr Ellie Aston and her family have gone through. Of course doubling the maximum sentence won’t eliminate that possibility, but it should make it a lot less likely. Of course we can only propose: Ministers will dispose.

Do you support increasing the maximum sentence for the most serious obsessive stalking from 5 to 10 years? Let me know what you think about our campaign at

Best regards

The Heritage Lottery Fund and Gloucester’s Two Big Awards

Project Pilgrim improvements for the Cathedral setting

Project Pilgrim improvements for the Cathedral setting

Yesterday the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced two big awards to Gloucester Cathedral and the Llanthony Secunda Priory, totalling over £7 million – a huge step forward for our Heritage attractions to city residents and tourists alike.

The one building in Gloucester that everyone knows is our Cathedral, a jewel in anyone’s crown. It’s a story of Norman monks, Edward II’s tomb, Henry III’s coronation, the Crecy Window, ‘Harry Potter’ cloisters, Stafford-Smith’s music for the US national anthem and Colonel Carne’s cross carved from nails in North Korea. For wonderful music, peace of mind and religious celebration it is second to none.

But the Cathedral is also grounded in community too: hosting the sad, sad, memorial services for young people killed by knives, the launch of the Rugby World Cup and (next week) a temporary skate park.

This great national attraction is also hard to access completely for those with disabilities, and is in a setting which most cathedrals easily outmatch. So Project Pilgrim award will tackle both issues, and more besides. When all is done we should have a setting that makes us even more proud of our Cathedral, and attracts even more visitors. I congratulate the Dean and Chapter on this fabulous success.

By contrast few know about Llanthony Secunda Priory. The original 12th century Llanthony is in Wales, its walls partly absorbed in a wall of a house, now Hotel. Walking to Hay-on-Wye, I once slept a night with hay and pigeons in its medieval gatehouse in a neighbouring field. Our Llanthony, by contrast, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, to misquote Churchill.

For a start the priory itself ain’t there. It was probably where the Canal is now. The books, unusually, of what was once a great medieval library, have outlasted the building: quite a lot of them are now in the Lambeth Palace Library (see photo below). What is left is a Tudor farmhouse with a Victorian extension, the remains of a great barn, some decent walls, a gateway and hints of ancient landscape. It has great charm – but what to do?

The Llanthony Secunda Trust, created a few years ago, has preserved the buildings, improved the landscape and come up with an inspired plan – which HLF funding makes possible. It will make the main buildings usable, brings in neighbouring Gloucestershire College students to use them, and will recreate a medieval garden beside the Sharpness-Gloucester canal.

At a time when the Quays opposite are also being regenerated with businesses and f&b outlets, and homes (Bakers Quay, now definitely happening), with possibly a new care home beside it soon, Llanthony has a strong chance to be an important green lung opposite a retail mecca. I can see students punting jaded shoppers across to picnics at Llanthony Secunda.

It’s very timely to get this HLF news in the year of the 800th anniversary of the coronation of King Henry III in Gloucester Cathedral, at a time when monks were writing Llanthony’s books. We have now had 24 successful bids from Gloucester to the HLF since 2010, after decades of Heritage decline and a lack of investment. Today our city’s enthusiasm for what the past can do for our future is much higher, and there is further to go as the improvements take place. The HLF has played a major part in that change.

Heritage is a vital part of any great city. It has to be recognised, explained, restored, highlighted and brought alive with new meaning for new generations. When it works, and a city is recognised for its Heritage, then other things – better hotels and shops to serve visitors, more Festivals and city centre hustle and bustle – become much more likely.

Our next bid is by St. Mary de Crypt’s Discover de Crypt project (of which I’m a patron – declaration of interest), which will bring alive the long closed old schoolroom, with both a Christian and a learning angle (see But HLF bids can come from schools and parks and be as whacky you like: (see list of winners on my website:

Let me know what you think would make an exciting bid at

Best regards


Gloucester Bids for a Gloucestershire Health University Technical College

Potential Career Paths from a Health UTC

Potential Career Paths from a Health UTC

I want to tell a short story which has led to perhaps the boldest new skills project that our city has embarked on for a long time.

Last summer I went to an 80th birthday party in Gloucestershire. Towards the end of it former Education Secretary Ken Baker asked me about the relationship between employment trends in Gloucestershire, and the skills training that we provided in the county. I explained the biggest gap was in Health: we were, for example, importing nurses from as far away as Portugal and the Philippines.

So Ken, who is Chairman of the Baker Dearing Trust that approves and funds the capital expenditure for UTCs, then told me about the first (recently opened) Health Futures University Technical College in the country, in West Bromwich. It teaches 14-18 year olds conventional GCSEs and A levels, but also Health and Care Btec vocational exams, while providing a wide range of work experience from different health sector employers. Students will go on to study further vocational qualifications or degrees for a wide variety of different health sector jobs and careers – as the infographic above shows. The West Brom UTC is already oversubscribed. And that got me thinking.

For why shouldn’t we provide exactly the same opportunity that Birmingham youngsters now have at the West Brom Health Futures UTC in Gloucestershire, giving them the skills to win some of the best jobs in our county – but for which few of our youth have the right skills when they leave school or college?

Fast forward and two group meetings later, with visits by Ken Baker and Jack Rickard of the Trust, and after many smaller discussions, and today the University of Gloucestershire, the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and I are announcing that Gloucester intends to bid for a Gloucestershire Health University Technical College.

This is very bold. And it’s only the start of a long journey. But what this does show is the amazing enthusiasm from our NHS Trusts, University, and other health employers, from GPs to dentists and care homes (see some sample quotes later on). Everyone has been positive so far.

This also captures the extraordinary coincidence that the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH) has the space to accommodate the UTC, which gives a very close location to the city centre – a short walk from both bus and train station. My announcement yesterday that in late 2017 GWR will open the station on the Hospital side of the railway line (for the first time since its Victorian construction) is a happy coincidence, with convenient cross county (and even beyond) transport links to the UTC.

And it’s another happy coincidence that two weeks ago the University of Glos application to relocate their Business School to Gloucester and increase their sports facilities with the Aspire Trust behind Estcourt Road, was approved by the City Council planning committee: UTC students could use the university sports facilities.

However none of us should underestimate the complexities of the bid application, on which the University will lead. There is a different journey for potential parents and pupils too: moving schools at 14 is still new to us in the UK, even though it’s been successful in Germany for a long time. Employers and the University see the great opportunity for skills and work experience, future careers and aspirations – but a UTC will only succeed if parents and their children see it this way too.

Alongside A Levels and GCSEs students at the UTC will also study subjects like Health and Social Care, and work on hands-on projects involving a range of potential health careers. This could include a 6-week look at what happens when a person gets in a car accident, following their journey through emergency care to surgery, and then to rehabilitation. The students would learn about all of the health professionals the patient meets along the way – which should raise their interest in many different future opportunities.

Our bid reflects the vital importance and size of the health sector in our county – almost 50,000 jobs in Gloucestershire – and recognition that there isn’t enough training for the skills needed at the moment in the county. ‘Much needs to be done to address this’, said Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Dr Frank Harsent, ‘and a UTC focused on health futures, with work experience in a variety of different institutions and roles, will make a huge difference both to recruitment and individual opportunities.’

We’ve done some research, and key employers have decided the case is strong enough to explore a bid. There is a long way to go but this is potentially an incredibly exciting educational development for the health sector in our county. It should lead to many more opportunities for Gloucestershire youth to work in health, and reduce our need to import health workers from abroad.

I’ve given a rather long list of reactions from educational and health organisations below.

This story – and sorry it’s longer than usual – shows that going to celebrate an 80 year old’s birthday can have unexpected consequences: and I’d welcome your feedback and reactions to this intention to bid for a Health UTC – let me know what you think on

Best regards

University of Gloucestershire Vice-Chancellor Stephen Marston

“Given the importance of the health service, we are keen to work with the Hospitals Trust and other NHS partners to help ensure they can recruit the staff they need to provide excellent patient care, particularly through increasing the supply of qualified nurses. Sponsoring a University Technical College in Gloucester with a focus on health therefore fits well with our wider goals….So the University is happy to play a leading role in pulling together a bid to form a UTC. It is still early days, and there is a lot of work ahead, but we will be working closely with a wide variety of partners to develop a strong proposal.”

Chief Executive of the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Dr Frank Harsent

“We have the space, and if the bid is successful the capital expenditure is provided by the Baker Dearing Trust. This would be the best possible investment in people and health, and the Hospitals Trust board has approved the concept. I will give it my personal maximum support as a member of the University board after I have retired from the NHS.’

Baker Dearing Chairman Lord Baker

“I welcome the enthusiasm from Gloucester that Richard has brought together and believe this is exactly the sort of need your county should be addressing, and where a UTC can make a big difference. We look forward to a strong bid.”

Councillor Paul McLain, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People on the Gloucestershire County Council

“This is an exciting and innovative proposal that meets a real need in our education system. It’s got the potential to make a massive difference, not just locally, but regionally and nationally, as well as supporting regeneration in Gloucester.”

West Bromwich Health Futures Principal Rob Fell

“Having met everyone involved in the discussions and sharing my experience of opening and running a Health Futures UTC, where we are already oversubscribed, I would say this (the Gloucester bid) has every chance of being a compelling bid’.

Mary Hutton, Accountable Officer at the NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group

“Workforce development is really important for the future sustainability of our health system. The CCG is working actively to support the education and training needs of our healthcare workforce, and to develop, recruit and retain qualified staff. We are pleased to support this exciting initiative which will help us develop a skilled workforce, enabling us to continue to provide high quality care to people living in Gloucestershire.”

Paul Jennings, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust

“I fully support this proposal for Gloucestershire. The UTC could give young people an early career focus in health by combining academic study with real-life work projects…I look forward to working with local partner organisations to help make sure we develop a strong and compelling bid.”

Tola Opaleye, Manager of Gloucester Dental Care

“The positive responses to the bid are very encouraging. I have a strong feeling that this can be done!”

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