Category Archives: Gloucester News

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.”

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP encourages pupils to visit Auschwitz

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has written to local secondary schools to encourage their sixth form pupils’ participation in the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Richard said about the visits to World War Two concentration camp Auschwitz: “I went there with some Gloucestershire pupils and teachers some years ago. It’s a very powerful reminder of what humans can do to other humans, how precious our freedoms and democracy are – and everyone who has been will always remember what they’ve seen, and be stronger in their support of tolerance in society.”

The MP added he would recommend the trip to anyone and that the HET’s subsidies make it more affordable.

The trip for the West Midlands South region (which includes Gloucester) departs on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 and costs £59 per participant as it is sponsored by the government and the Holocaust Educational Trust. Applications for the trip close on the 24th of February, and for more information on how to apply, visit www.het.org.uk

Note to editors:

The Project is now in its eighteenth year and has taken more than 30,000 students and teachers from across the UK to visit the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP urges council to consider levy towards night time economy

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has urged the City Council to consider raising funds from a Late Night Levy on night time outlets and venues, including takeaways, to cover the social costs of nightlife in the city centre.

Richard said, “The legislation now exists to enable councils to raise funds from those who benefit most from the night time economy to help cover the social costs also associated with it. The Late Night Levy could be a valuable source of funds for services like CCTV operators and the police who deal with the brunt of incidents.

We want all the fun our night time venues can bring, and most people enjoy them responsibly. But I think it’s time that the businesses involved, for example, contribute to the clean-up of broken glass and food on the street. So this is something I’m asking Gloucester City Council to consider carefully.”

The Late Night Levy has been taken up by seven local authorities so far, and was amended by the government in January to encourage more local authorities to consider implementing the levy in their area.

The Levy allows the council to raise a contribution from late-opening alcohol suppliers towards policing the night-time economy. It can apply to specific geographical locations, and the authorities will be required to publish information about how the funds are spent. The police will receive at least 70% of the net levy revenue and the local authority can retain up to 30% to fund other services.

PRESS RELEASE: 107 MPs call for swift government support for Tidal Lagoons

107 MPs have signed a letter to Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary of State Greg Clark calling for the government to respond to the recommendations of the Hendry Review on Tidal Lagoons, and in particular Charles Hendry’s call for a pathfinder Tidal Lagoon, as soon as possible.

Chair of the All Party Group for Marine Energy and Tidal Lagoons Richard Graham MP said:

“Former Energy Minister Charles Hendry started his Review as a sceptic and ended as an enthusiast. He was very clear in urging the government to give the green light for a pathfinder in Swansea – the world’s first ever tidal lagoon – and then see whether the experience justified going ahead with much larger future lagoons.

There is a large amount of support in Parliament for this and many of us believe that tidal lagoons meet the aims of the government’s new industrial strategy. Clearly the BusinessSecretary and the Chancellor will want to be sure the pathfinder is affordable in the context of delivering secure, domestic, low carbon and diversified sources of energy. Our letter is to urge the government not to delay in responding positively to the recommendations and getting the financial talks for the pathfinder under way.”

Notes to editors

Richard Graham MP will be available for interviews on the 14th of February and the morning of the 15th of February. Please contact Megan Trethewey for details: 020 7219 2299.

The Rt Hon Charles Hendry presented his Independent Review on Tidal Lagoons to the Secretary of State before Christmas, and has since released it to the public.

The report concluded that tidal lagoons could make a ‘strong contribution to UK energy security’, based on an analysis of security, carbonisation, affordability and economic gain. It added that Tidal Lagoons would create a ‘lifeline’ to UK companies including some in the
steel industry, and offer a ‘significant economic opportunity for Wales and the UK more generally’.

The Review proposed the construction of a ‘pathfinder’ lagoon at Swansea Bay to start as soon as negotiations with the companies involved have been finalised.

Minister for Industry and Energy Jesse Norman MP has stated that “there will be no dragging of heels” in the government’s response to the review.

The Hendry Review final report can be found here.

Information regarding the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Marine Energy and Tidal Lagoons can be found here.

Flick Drummond MP also agrees with the contents of the letter.

 

Gloucester: second fastest growth in business jobs in the UK

The hardest thing for those trying to make things better in a city is a sense of perspective and relative measurement. How are we doing compared to others?

The annual Centre for Cities Outlook Report, like any data gathering exercise, has limits and needs interpretation. But it does shed some interesting light.

In 2015-2016 Gloucester had the fourth highest employment rate of any city: over 80% of us are working, with a very high (6.7%) increase. In fact we had the second fastest increase in business jobs of any city in the country: 2,100 more jobs in that year alone. For me that’s critical. We’ve always had a very high ratio of public sector jobs but our economy is more balanced now, with the ratio of business to public sector now of 1.8 or 41,000 to 23,000.

This is all very good news, and takes us closer to what economists would say is full employment. Our next challenge is to increase the numbers of those with disabilities in work. Our county does well overall on this, but there is more we can do in the city, and there are skills available that employers should look at more. Forwards (based in the county council) leads co-ordination on this.

Gloucester was also the 10th fastest growing city by population, and 7th for the fastest growth in housing stock – building homes to meet increased demand. I know we need more homes, more affordable homes and more 1 and 2 bed homes. New housing is coming through in different places, both in the city centre and suburbs, and there is much more to come – while still keeping our precious green lungs.

There are a couple of areas to work on. We come fairly low on export revenue per worker (third quartile), and I suspect this reflects a mix of some strong exporters but many SMEs who aren’t yet exporting at all. Our skill levels are improving – those with no formal qualification are down to 8.1% (national average is 8.8%), but we can do much more on skills.

Which is why the relocation of the University’s Business School to Gloucester, offering nursing degrees and nursing associate higher apprenticeships from the University, the apprenticeships at GlosCol, GET, Prospect and SWAP matter hugely. As does our goal for a University Technical College. There is no point trying to increase our control of immigration unless we can train our own young for the jobs we have available, like nursing, and especially the 50,000 jobs in the county’s health sector.

The Centre for Cities latest report is a good one for Gloucester. Like any school Head’s report there’s room for improvement, and there always will be. Skills, productivity and exports stand out for me. We have plans on all and must make sure they come through. A good result from our Growth Fund bid would help, as would government approval of the world’s first tidal lagoon and local planning approval for our University’s plans. It’s all about keeping good momentum going.

PRESS RELEASE: MP secures BT broadband deal for Tolsey Gardens

Richard Graham MP has secured an agreement from Openreach – BT’s local network business – to fund vital upgrade works in Tolsey Gardens in Tuffley to provide them with fibre broadband from the Summer.

This follows concerns raised by Tolsey Gardens residents about the ongoing slow internet they were experiencing, with average speeds of 2.5MB. Richard Graham had meetings with BT and the then-Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey MP to discuss the case and to see if an appropriate solution could be found.

Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, said, “I am glad that we have now come to an agreement with BT to help Tolsey Gardens residents get the broadband that they need. One local resident told me about how he is unable to Skype his son who lives abroad, which is not acceptable in this day and age. This is a great result for Tolsey Garden residents, but there are still some who struggle to get decent internet speeds, and so we are also working with the county council on how to use Fastershire money for other black spots in Gloucester.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said, “Our ambition is to never say no to residents who ask for improved broadband service. In this case, following a review, we were able to find a solution by working with Ministers, the local MP Richard Graham and residents. As a result, Tolsey Gardens will see a real improvement in their broadband speeds when the works are finished.”

Cllr Nigel Hanman said, “I would think the residents of Tolsey Gardens will be highly delighted considering their wait.”

Cllr Steve Morgan said, “It is encouraging that BT have responded in a positive way to the requests for improvement to this service. This demonstrates that they will listen to the views of residents and their elected representatives.”

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