Category Archives: Gloucester News

PRESS RELEASE: County MPs all back Gloucestershire Health UTC

All Gloucestershire MPs have confirmed their support for the proposed new Gloucestershire University Technical College, specialising in health and science technologies and based in Gloucester.

The UTC was proposed by Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham and supported by partners including the University of Gloucestershire, all the NHS Trusts and the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, and backed as well by business and two secondary schools. The 5 other Gloucestershire MPs have written a letter of support to the Education Department agreeing with Richard’s proposals.

Richard said “one of the key features of our proposed UTC is that it will be based close to the bus and train stations and so it will be accessible to pupils from all over the county. I always felt it was important to have the support of every Gloucestershire MP and we now have that.”

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk said, ”I see great opportunities for my constituents from this proposal, not least from staff coming back to work at Cheltenham General and local GPs surgeries.”

Richard Graham highlighted that pupils would study both the usual range of GCSEs and A Levels and also BTECS in health and social care. “Pupils would be guaranteed work experience with the NHS and other partners, and leave with great opportunities in both health and care pathways, whether degrees or apprenticeships, like the new Nursing Associate qualifications shortly to start at the Uni of Glos.”

The process for future UTC bids awaits the government’s response to the recent consultation on education and so progress on the Gloucestershire Health UTC will now have to wait until after the General Election.

“The Steering Group is ready to submit its application”, noted Richard, “with a strong case based on committed University and NHS support – and now cross county political support. Giving our young constituents more opportunities in Health and Care is a strategic must do, and home growing our own health and care professionals will help both the NHS and patients alike. We know too the (Birmingham) West Bromwich Health UTC is a success. These are all great positives and the government is very conscious of them.”

Former Education Secretary Lord Baker of the Baker Dearing Trust which develops and promotes UTCs, said, “There is an urgent need for skills at all levels in the health sector so I am particularly encouraged to see a bid for a new University Technical College in Gloucestershire specialising in health related industries. Gloucestershire Health UTC will offer young people in the South West the choice of a high quality technical pathway from the age of 14. I wish the team behind the bid every success with their exciting application.”

The Steering Group hopes to submit the bid to the Education Department later in 2017.

 

 

Improving our old estates

Parts of Matson and Podsmead look tired now

Churchill famously once said ‘we shape buildings and then they shape us’. The £1.25m Estates Regeneration award just won by Gloucester City Homes, with strong support from the City Council and I, is all about this dynamic.

Our physical goal is to transform the post war estates in Matson and Podsmead, two wards of Gloucester which will hugely benefit from new and better buildings, landscaping and overall look. I know GCH will respect key green areas and local priorities.

There are encouraging precedents: the micro regeneration of the sites of former pubs The Musket (Matson) and Jet & Whittle (Podsmead) by GCH and Green Square respectively have already shown that good value and good materials can go together successfully. And then the buildings have shaped a great sense of pride in surroundings.

I’ve wanted to see a transformation since I first walked around both wards ten years ago. I wanted to see the most made, especially of Matson’s, beautiful natural setting with a more attractive man-made contribution.

Now the combination of GCH’s new status as a stand alone company and the £50m housing debt write off I achieved from the last government, plus a good pitch by GCH to this new government programme, means transformation is now, at last, possible.

This is the next stage of GCH’s journey under Ashley Green: from managing city council housing stock to independent company driving housing regeneration in city and county.

As Citizen Editor Jenny Eastwood notes it’s a great win for all of Gloucester, because regeneration has to be spread everywhere across our city.

This is a good example of a new source of funding through the government. To succeed we need great ideas, and I spend a lot of time either thinking what we could do (like the major Blackfriars scheme or the new railway car park) or writing letters of support for others’ good ideas. The teamwork between MP and different organisations in our city is incredibly important and rating low on political squabbling is one reason we’re winning more bids.

But this is only the beginning of the estate regeneration. The detail is critical. We’re rightly sceptical of big promises in Gloucester and residents of Matson and Podsmead will want to know exactly what’s planned before getting excited about it. But residents have seen the good new housing in Painswick Road, locally designed by Aqua, and that should bring confidence that GCH will bring forward some good plans and designs.

Meanwhile I think we should be proud of our Housing company, and pleased that the Gloucester team is together winning funding for Estate regeneration, against competition from all over the country. Let’s now shape some great new housing and infrastructure – and then be optimistic about how it will then shape us.

A week after Gloucester won £1.49 million for cultural development from the Lottery Fund and the Arts Council, we’re continuing to surprise ourselves, positively.

Let me know what other regeneration initiatives would be positive surprises in our city at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

New GCH and Green Square homes in Matson and Podsmead

PRESS RELEASE: City MP: “income boost for all working families in Gloucester”

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham has highlighted three changes in the new financial year that benefit all working families and come into effect from this week.

Richard said “firstly the tax-free personal allowance rises again, from £11,000 to £11,500. This benefits about 59,000 people in our city and a typical basic rate taxpayer will now pay £1,000 less income tax this year than he or she did in 2010”.

The City MP noted that as a result of the changes to the personal allowance and the higher rate threshold, about 2.7 million people in the South West will be on average £192 better off and 116,000 more residents in the region taken out of income tax altogether, compared to 2015-16. “That means,” he said, “that my constituents can offset increased council tax bills as government encourages councils to live more within their means locally.”

Richard then secondly drew attention to a further increase in the National Living Wage, which goes up to £7.50 an hour – “this means an income boost of over £500 a year for a full time worker in Gloucester,” he noted.

The third bit of good news is that the government is also providing up to £2,000 a year per child through an expansion of tax-free childcare, to help with family costs. “It’s a big bill, childcare, and this will help many constituents, especially those who need it most,” said Richard.

The local MP added: “we’re all impatient for change. Locally we’ve won new money for estate regeneration in Matson and Podsmead, and for much more culture in the city centre, both of which are exciting. Nationally these changes cut tax for over 30 million people, give the lowest paid a wage boost and help more with childcare. So more of my working constituents WILL be better off, and realise that work does always pay now”.

NOTES TO EDITOR

The Personal Allowance is rising from £11,000 to £11,500. It will go up to £12,500 by the end of this Parliament.

PRESS RELEASE: Parking at Gloucester Station set to double

Parking at Gloucester Station is set to double this winter after work began on a new car park today.

The £2.7 million works are due to complete by the end of 2017, and will provide 240 additional spaces at a new, separate car park. A new northern entrance into Gloucester Station will also be provided.

MP for Gloucester Richard Graham said: “Action starts today on an additional new station car park and access to the station from Great Western Road. It’s been a marathon since I first raised this in 2013 but all work is now planned to be completed by the end of the year.

This will add 240 new car parking places, which is good for station parking capacity and may help Hospital capacity too: it will allow much quicker pedestrian access to and from the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital; and provides an additional way of driving to and from the station – the right turn off Bruton Way is far from ideal, and the 300 degree exit onto Bruton Way/Metz Way is very bad at rush hour.

Now we have to sort the underpass, improve the forecourt and get a new exit out of the current station car park onto Metz Way. I’m working on a plan for this with the City Council.”

GWR Commercial Development Director Matthew Golton said: “More and more people are turning to rail for their local and long distance journeys; to meet this demand later this year we will start to see brand new Intercity Express Trains on the GWR network, offering more seats and more frequent services.

“GWR is dedicated to supporting the communities it serves and this new car park when complete, alongside improved rail services, will enable the local economy to continue to thrive both now and into the future.”

Presently Gloucester Station has 199 long stay, plus short stay parking bays on the main forecourt. The new car park off Great Western Road will add an extra 240 spaces.

Leader of Gloucester City Council Paul James said: “I’m delighted to see work start on the new car park.  It has taken a lot of determined effort from all sides to reach this stage, but shows what we can achieve when national and local government and the private sector all work together.”

GWR – (L-R) Matthew Golden GWR representative, MP Richard Graham and Paul James counselor, New car park improvements for Gloucester rail station. Gloucester, Gloucestershire. 31 March 2017

 

 

Gloucester MP welcomes Government funding to transform two Gloucester estates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards

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