Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Busy Chairman Duties


As you will see from my last post, I was elected to serve as Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council in May this year after the elections. It has been so busy since then, that I have not had the time to update my blog posts with all of the 35 events that I have attended so far.  However, for all those who have Twitter accounts, I have made sure that I have tweeted many of the events that I have attended. Do feel free to click on the 'Twitter' feed at the left hand side of this page and you will see this.

The photograph above captures me presenting the Earth Trust, based at Little Wittenham, South Oxfordshire, with a rose plant which is a tradition that has been held for many years with the County Council and the Earth Trust.  The rose is a symbol of the peppercorn rent presented to the Trust to ensure that the public are given free access to this beautiful countryside in Oxfordshire.  Many family events and activities are held here in the summer, so I am sure that a browse of their website at: www.earthtrust.org.uk will give plenty of information on this, especially as the school summer holidays draw near.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Election to Oxfordshire County Council Chairman


I am delighted to have been elected Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council for the coming year 2017/18 after the Annual Council meeting, which was held yesterday at County Hall.  It is a great honour and privilege to be an ambassador out and about in this beautiful county and I look forward to a very busy year ahead.

I have nominated two local charities which I hope to support over the coming year which are the Oxfordshire Oesophageal and Stomach Organisation, which is a charity set up to help those of us who have been touched by this disease.  This group not only supports survivors and their carers to live as normal a life as possible, but regularly raises funds for the unit at the Churchill hospital in Oxford. 

My other charity I shall be supporting is Headway Oxfordshire, which has a base in Kennington and supports those suffering from brain injury and their families as they try to come to terms with living as normal a life as they can in difficult circumstances.

The official engagements started today with presenting awards for the Oxfordshire Supported Internships, which took place at County Hall. It was a real pleasure to see so many young people who benefit from the good work we are doing with Oxfordshire Employment and other charities including Mencap, Shaw Trust, Disability Confident alongside the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

County Council Elections May 2017

I was delighted to have been re-elected to represent the division of Grove and Wantage in the County Council elections on Thursday 4th May.  The total number of votes cast for me this time was 2153 which has increased from my last 4-year term in 2013, a link to the full results are here

This will be my fifth term as a County Councillor so I am looking forward to serving my constituents again and would like to thank everyone who has supported me.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Grove Annual Parish Council Meeting

On Friday evening, I attended the Annual Parish Meeting of Grove Parish Council at the Old Mill Hall.  I gave the following report to residents about the work I have undertaken in my role over the past year as County Councillor for Grove and Wantage.  I hope it will be of interest to residents who were unable to attend.

COUNTY COUNCIL ANNUAL REPORT TO PARISH COUNCIL 2017

This year, I have been back to my usual council duties as your representative for Grove and Wantage, but it has been a real honour to have taken on the role of Vice Chairman of the County Council during this last year.  This has meant that as well as supporting the Chairman at County Council meetings, I have been out and about the county doing many duties on his behalf when I can.  Several of these duties have included supporting events of the Armed Forces, but I was particularly delighted to have opened the A338 Wantage Road bridge after the Network Rail electrification works had been completed last July.  As many residents will recall, this was a controversial issue when the original plan to close this busy road for 6 months was avoided when it was agreed with the County Council that the new bridge would be built alongside the old one which was eventually demolished.  I must admit I have had a lot of good feedback from residents about the new bridge since it has been built, so this was an excellent outcomefor us all.

As I reported last year, a stay of execution was given to our local Childrens’ Centre in Grove and Wantage to enable community solutions to take place where possible. I am pleased to say that I have chaired our local steering group with St. John’s Parish Church where we have been working with many volunteers to find a solution.  We put in a bid to the County Council’s £1M Transition Fund and were given an interim payment of £10,000.  We were also fortunate in winning a successful bid from Wantage Town Council, who have very generously promised us £10,000 over the next 3 years.

I have now handed over the Chairmanship of this group over to the PCC (Parish Church Council) who will continue running services for mums and babies in the area both at The Beacon in Wantage and at St. John’s Parish rooms in Grove.  We are also seeking more funding to ensure this group continues in the future, as it is much valued, especially with more houses planned for the area. The long term aim will be that this group will come under management of the Vale Academy Trust when it begins building the new Grove Cof E Academy in Grove. 

I am sure that many of you will be aware that the bid to the Dept. for Education to build this new school for Grove to cover ages 2-16 has been successful. I must say I was delighted to hear this news, after campaigning for Grove to have its own secondary school in its own right for many years as it has always been a problem for as long as I can remember that schoolchildren have to travel into Wantage (a near 3 mile journey for some) to go to secondary school. This should provide a seamless education right from nursery through to 16.

Regarding the cuts to bus subsidies which went ahead last year, I have been working hard with officers and the bus companies to see if we could keep some of our valuable routes going.  Since the 38 Town Service has gone, I believe that Thames Travel tried to incorporate some of the routes into their services to Didcot/Harwell, but this has been difficult, because their services do not cover Grove.  This means that although we still have a regular service to Oxford with the Stagecoach X30 and the 31 which also covers Abingdon, to go to Didcot or Harwell, residents have to change buses in Wantage.  This has been creating problems with Wantage Town Council complaining about too many buses in the Market Place.  On the other hand, the local town service around Charlton and Stockham has been discontinued. So the dilemma for the bus companies is how to make their services commercially viable whilst trying to keep their regular loyal customers. There has been a recent consultation undertaken with Stagecoach re-routing the X30 or 31 services, but I haven’t yet heard the outcome of this.  I did meet the manager of Stagecoach to ask him to extend the consultation period until the end of March which they did thankfully. Early signs (though not official) is that the route may not change.  I am still waiting the official results of the survey.

Last year, I did report that there was a consultation regarding one unitary council for the whole of Oxfordshire.  As far as I am aware at the current time, the South and Vale district councils have now agreed on this proposal renaming it ‘A Better Oxfordshire’ and I understand this re-organisation bid is currently with the government.  With a General Election now called for  in June, it is unlikely any decision will be taken for some time after that.  I am sure that district councillors present here may wish to say more about this.

We have had some success with road resurfacing in the area (for example the recurrent potholes on the Denchworth Road by the Bay Tree), but for most people the biggest problem is that potholes are not fixed, or left too long or once fixed, they come back.  I am always told that the best way to report anything like this is to the Oxfordshire County website page ‘Fix My Street’.  This way, you are able to track dates of repairs and see others who may have reported it, as well as learning the current status of repair.

Finally, just to update you that the County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee did write a letter to the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt regarding the lack of funding for GP surgeries in the area. This included both Wantage & Grove Health Centre at Mably Way and Faringdon.  Of the £50 Million bid for Oxfordshire, only £2 Million was allocated and none of it came here.  There will be another bidding round next year which we hope will be successful.

I am sure that there may be something I have missed, so please feel free to ask any questions.  As you know, I usually hold my surgeries in Grove Library one Saturday a month, but I have none planned at the moment because there are County Council elections on 4th May and obviously, we don’t know the outcome.  However, what I would like to say is that Grove Library has been one of the first in the County to have been given open access (meaning you can access the library out of hours) at all times. If you feel you would like to take advantage of this service, then please see library staff and I am sure they will help.
May I just say that it has been a real pleasure serving you as County Councillor for Grove for 16 years now, and depending on the wishes of the electorate may or may not be here to continue.

Cllr Zoé Patrick 
County Councillor for Grove & Wantage

Thursday, 13 April 2017

New School in Grove

I am delighted to hear that the Vale Academy Trust in Wantage has been successful in its bid to the Department for Education to open a new 'all through' Church of England academy for the children of Grove.  The Trust is currently comprised of several local primary schools in Wantage and Grove and this will provide a seamless transition for pupils from primary to secondary education in the area. I wrote a letter to the Department supporting this bid, believing that this is a great opportunity for the village of Grove to have its own stand-alone school in the area from 2-16.

Home to School transport has long been a problem since we lost our free school transport for schoolchildren in Grove to attend secondary school in Wantage many years ago.  I am also hoping that this will give the community of Grove extra facilities, which families can benefit from. Its is now very important that we all work together in what will be very exciting times ahead.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Road Resurfacing in Grove and Wantage


As you will see from the photos above, the string of potholes on the Denchworth Road by the Bay Tree public house in Grove have finally been resurfaced.  As many residents know, these potholes have been recurring on a regular basis, but this time, I am hoping this solution will last longer.  This busy road is a major artery in and out of Grove and is heavily used by lorries, buses and cars on a daily basis.

Highway maintenance works in Wantage area to be resurfaced in the coming months include:
  • Challow Road (this may happen during April otherwise it will be done 12th June overnight)
  • Camel Crossroads on 13th June (2 nights)
  • St. Mary's Way/Denchworth Rd. (mini roundabout) on 15th June (1 night)
These are all long-standing works which many residents have been waiting for and so I am pleased that action is being taken to repair them at long last.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Consultation on New Bus Routes for Grove and Wantage

Stagecoach Bus Company are currently consulting on a new bus route for the X30/31 services around Grove and Wantage.  Originally, planned to take place with just one week's notice, I have managed to get the consultation period extended until the end of the month.

The proposal is that 'some' of the X30 and 31 services from Wantage Market Place to Oxford will go via the west rather than to the east of the village.  This would see buses leaving Wantage, going down Mill Street then going along the Denchworth Road past Stockham Park. In Grove, the buses would go past the recreational ground and skate park, then go through the centre of the village up Breretron Drive, before rejoining Station Road and the normal route.

Currently, the services leave the Wantage Market Place and come to Grove via the A338 Grove Road and Main Street.  However, the company wishes to find out if residents desire 'some services' to take this alternative route.

Residents can have their say by taking one of the feedback forms off the buses or emailing comments to oxford.enquries@stagecoachbus.com by the end of this month on 31st March. 

The proposed route as published in the Oxford Mail (15 March) is shown below:

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Big Health and Care Consultation

Local residents may already be aware that there is another important consultation taking place in Grove tomorrow afternoon at Grove Village Hall from 3pm - 5pm.

I believe this event was orginally planned to take place in  Wantage, but now seems to have changed the venue without updating flyers and publicity information.  This also means that it will now clash with the consultation taking place at Grove Library on the unitary proposals for Oxfordshire which is from 2pm - 4.30pm.

It is a shame that such important events have clashed with timings, but I am hoping to go to both, so do look forward to seeing as many residents as possible giving their views.

Friday, 3 February 2017

One Oxfordshire Update


Today the One Oxfordshire roadshow hit Wantage Library so I went along to meet and discuss the options with local residents.  You can see the display on offer in the photos above.  Please see the link on my previous blog post if you wish to see the documents on the County Council website with the consultation.

It was good to talk to those who came along with their views and I hope that those who did not come today will have another opportunity to come to Grove Library next week on Tuesday 7th February from 2pm - 4.30pm.  Looking forward to seeing a good turnout once again.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

One Oxfordshire Council


I thought it would be helpful to update local residents on the latest proposals for one unitary council for Oxfordshire.  I was present at a briefing yesterday evening at County Hall where we were all told that plans were now in hand to consult with the public on this model.  This has now gone live today.

What is most important to all this, is that residents have their say on what they would like to see.  Please make sure you make your views known and see the documents on the County Council website link here www.oneoxfordshire.org.

I shall keep you informed about how things progress over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2017 Approaches


Christmas seems to have come and gone and it does not seem long ago when I joined everyone at our annual Grove Parish Council Carol Service around the Christmas tree by Millbrook Square accompanied by the Wantage Silver Band.
This year, it was a fine evening and it was good to share coffee and mince pies in the Methodist Church hall with residents in the village. 

Yesterday, I took a walk to Letcombe Brook by The Green to take in a breathe of fresh air and I was struck by the evening glow on the brook as I stood on the bridge.  No snow this year, as it has been mild so far, but frost and fog in the early mornings is now to be expected.

I should therefore like to wish everyone a very healthy and prosperous New Year in 2017.  I have now fixed up my councillor surgeries in Grove Library up until the May elections.  The next one will be held on Saturday 14th January between 10.30 am and 11.30 am. No appointment necessary.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Christmas Approaches!



On Monday evening,  I was in County Hall to see the Christmas lights switched on.  You can see the beautiful tree which was donated by the Blenheim Estate in the photograph at the top of this blog post.  Children from the choir at Longfields Primary School sang carols around the tree to entertain us during the evening.  

Afterwards, there was an opening of the artwork display presented to County Hall to decorate the corridor from secondary schools around Oxfordshire.  I was pleased to have helped to deliver and collect the canvas from King Alfred's Academy in Wantage, which is shown above.  Schools were asked to paint a scene depicting their surrounding area, and I think the painting above captures a scene of our historic Ridgeway and Downland views very well.

I am sure that everyone will be busy in the run up to Christmas, but hopefully I shall see many residents at our annual carol service in Grove at the Christmas tree near Millbrook Square.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday


Today was, of course, Remembrance Sunday when we remember the fallen in the World Wars and other conflicts.  In the morning, I attended the service in Grove Parish Church, which was full with the local community. It is always inspiring to see the young children attending in the Rainbows, Brownies, Girl Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts.

In the afternoon, I attended the Civic Parade and Remembrance service in Didcot and laid a wreath on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council. This was a moving open-air service around the War Memorial and the parade was led by the Oxford Caledonian Pipe Band.  The event was very well attended by many members of the Didcot community on a sunny afternoon.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

A417 Challow Road Bridge - Weekend Road Closures Coming Up



The photograph above shows me at the re-opening of the A417 Challow Road bridge on 5th December 2014 after 4 months of closure.

I was therefore very surprised to hear last month that there were plans to close the road again for 2 weeks whilst carriage maintenance works were carried out.  After taking up the matter with Network Rail and the County Council, I was then told that these works would be postponed until another solution was found.  

Fortunately, the works have now been given the go-ahead for two weekends in November to allow carriageway maintenance to be undertaken.  The weekend closures are as follows:

22:00 hours on Friday 18th November - 06:00 hours Monday 21st November

22:00 hours on Friday 25th November - 06:00 hours Monday 28th November 

Millaway Lane will also be closed during this time to prevent this being used as an alternative diversion route for traffic.

As I am sure residents are aware, all these road closures are a necessary part of the Great Western Electrification project, which has affected many rail bridges in this area.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Maggie's Fundraising Update

Just to let everyone know that the final total raised by the Chairman and myself for the Maggie's Centre Culture Crawl is close to £800. This was announced in the full council meeting held on Tuesday this week.

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking all those friends, family and supporters who helped us to raise so much by giving so generously to this worthy cause.  I believe a grand total of over £20,000 was eventually reached.

I was pleased to attend the 2nd birthday party celebration at Maggie's Centre on Wednesday 12th October, which was a great opportunity to meet with others who have been affected by cancer and their friends and families.

You can find more details on the Culture Crawl that we undertook to raise funds along with others taking part, in the posts and photographs posted in my previous blog posts.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Demolition Work On Old Wantage Road Bridge - Weekend Closures


This is to inform residents of some important works coming up on the A338 Wantage Road bridge which will involve traffic lights and a temporary road closure over a forthcoming weekend.  This is to allow for the demolition to take place of the old bridge which will allow for the electification of the Great Western railway to continue.

To allow Network Rail to undertake pre-demolition work of the old Wantage Road bridge temporary traffic lights will be set up on 25th October until 4th November 2016.

A weekend closure of the new bridge will then take place whilst demolition work is undertaken.  This will be from 22.00 on 11th November until 6.00 on 14th November 2016.

I have to admit that I have spent a lot of time chasing up these forthcoming works, having been told when I opened the new bridge (see blog post here), that demoliton of the old bridge would be taking place before the end of the year.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

New School for Grove


Last night, I attended a meeting at Millbrook Primary School to hear more about plans to deliver a new school for Grove. The evening consisted of workshops where parents and residents had an opportunity to express their views.  It was a very constructive evening with many positive and helpful suggestions about how the new school would become.

This has long been a campaign I have been involved with in the village for over 25 years, when the school bus was removed by Oxfordshire County Council taking children from Grove to Wantage.  I formed a 'Save the School Bus' campaign group and after presenting a petition to the Education Committee, schoolchildren and parents were given a year's grace, before the bus was stopped altogether. Since then, our children have had to make their own way to all 3 secondary school sites in Wantage.  Even now, as a local county councillor, I spend a lot of time dealing with casework on this issue. Time for some change I think!

When the Grove Airfield development appeared on the horizon, and the plans showed provision for a new secondary school in Grove, hopes rose that at long last this may happen. Indeed, much debate started again on this issue and one can see from my blog which started in 2007, I was headlining this topic!  

Well, here we are nearly 10 years later, and as the Airfield site still hasn't delivered to date, I was pleased to hear that the Vale Academy Trust has now become proactive on this matter. As new housing development has already taken place around the area and school places are becoming filled year by year as families move in, it now looks a good time to revisit the original plans.

The new school would aim to provide seamless education from 2 - 16, and would also provide community facilities we have been lacking for several years.  It will also mean that our schoolchildren will no longer have to travel at least 2 miles to reach secondary school with our ever-increasing busy roads and lack of proper cycle tracks or footpaths on the route.  A sixth form for the school has not been ruled out.

I look forward to keeping residents informed how this bid progresses, as I understand the case for the new school is being presented to the Department for Education by the deadline tomorrow. The new school, which could be called 'Grove Academy' expects to open in 2019, if all goes to plan.  Meanwhile, watch this space!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Maggie's Oxford Culture Crawl


As planned, I took part in the Culture Crawl organised by Maggie's Oxford. This started at Egrove Park in Kennington taking in various cultural stops across Oxford before finally arriving at Maggie's Centre next to the Churchill Hospital. I completed half of the route before I handed over to Cllr. Michael Waine who then walked the remainder. It was a very enjoyable evening whilst also raising funds for Maggie's who do a fantastic job supporting people with cancer and their families. Thanks to everyone who supported me and anyone who still wishes to make a small donation to Maggie's can do so using the link in my previous post.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Culture Crawl for Maggie's Centre Oxford


This Friday evening, 23rd September 2016,  I shall be taking part in an 8-mile Culture Crawl to raise money for Maggie’s Centre in Oxford at the Churchill Hospital site.  This is something which I am doing as Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council alongside the Chairman, Cllr. Michael Waine.
We would be incredibly grateful if you would be kind enough to sponsor us please by going to the following link:
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OCC-Chairman-and-ViceChairman

Both Michael and I received excellent care from both the Churchill Hospital and Maggie's Centre during our recovery from illness and we both wished to put something back for the help and support we received.
Thank you in advance for your support for this very deserving cause. If you are not familiar with Maggie’s Centre and would like to know more, please visit their website:
https://www.maggiescentres.org/our-centres/maggies-oxford/

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Lay-by at Grove Recreation Ground Refresh


As you will notice from the photograph taken above, this is the lay-by at the side of the Recreation Ground in Grove. This area is well-used by those parking for the grounds and sports facilities on the adjoining fields. It was most recently in demand for the Grove & Wantage Extravaganza event (reported on my blog post).

I had delayed getting this works done in the past, due to the Grove Airfield development coming on stream, but as delays continue on this site, and the fact that there was money in the Highways budget that needed using up before the end of the financial year, now was the time to get something done.

I know this isn't a perfect job as you can already see some water from recent rainfall in some of the pitted areas, but at least something is better than nothing, and will make life a little easier for those parking to use the recreational facilities nearby.