Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Temporary Road closures Coming up on A338 Weekends in June

There are forthcoming temporary road closures and speed limits coming up on the A338 on consecutive weekends in June, so this is a warning of the dates ahead.  This is to allow Bam Nuttall Ltd. to undertake work at the rail bridge associated with the Network Rail Great Western Electrification Project to be carried out.

The weekends involved are from
 3 June 20.00 hrs to 6 June 06.00 hrs,
10 June 20.00 hrs to 13 June 06.00 hrs,
17 June 20.00 hrs to 20 June 06.00 hrs,
24 June 20.00 hrs to 27 June 06.00 hrs.

Each time the road is reopened a 10mph temporary speed restriction and ramps will be in place.  Appropriate traffic signs will be displayed to indicate when the measures are in force.  Notice of intention will be published in the local press.

I hope that appropriate diversion signs will be in place to drivers who will be unaware of the closures.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Newbury Street Resurfacing

Just a reminder that Newbury Street in Wantage is closed as it is being resurfaced between the Market Place and the Ormond Road junction. As you can see from the photo above, the work commenced today and is expected to finish on 20 May.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Election to Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council

It was a great honour today to be elected the new Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council for the year 2016/17.  Cllr. Michael Waine was elected as Chairman and I am pleased to be supporting his role in attending ceremonial duties out and about in our beautiful county of Oxfordshire.
After serving 15 years on this council, where I have seen many changes, I stood down as Leader of the Liberal Democrat group last year due to ill health Now, it is good to look forward to taking on this non-political role in the future.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Grove Parish Council - Annual Meeting

On Friday night, I attended the annual meeting of Grove Parish Council and as County Councillor gave the report below.

Firstly, I have to say how pleased I am to be back this evening and able to give my annual report to the parish council.  As many of you will already know, this time last year I was not in good health and undergoing chemotherapy in advance of major cancer surgery.  However, thanks to the excellent care I received at the Churchill Hospital Upper GI Unit in Oxford, I was pleased to be able to return home to recover over the summer.  I was delighted to hear that after nominating my surgeon and his team at the Churchill they actually went on to win the Oxford Mail Hospital Heroes Award at the end of last year, with fierce competition.  I was pleased to be able to be there and part of this occasion at Oxford Town Hall.

I returned to council duties in September and since standing  down as Group Leader last May, I have been able to concentrate on local issues and getting back my strength. The main thing to report to you this evening has been the major budget cuts which the County Council has had to undertake since February due to a poor government settlement and an ever-increasing demand on our services.

Three areas which have been the subject of these cuts have been in the public eye: 1) Children’s Centres, 2) Adult Social Care including day centres, and 3) public transport bus subsidies.  At our budget meeting in February, we supported a budget amendment which gave a stay of execution to our Childrens' Centres.  There had been a public consultation over the summer, and it was agreed that early intervention services would be centred at 8 hubs spread over the county (sadly not including any local ones here) and all 44 centres would close.  However, since that was announced, more money came in from national government (probably as a result of media attention in our area!).  Most of this money had to be ring-fenced for Adult Social Care, and I am sure you have already seen this on your recent council tax bill!  This money could be used to help keep open some of our day centres, including the voluntary provision (like our Grove Day Centre) and the rest used to plug some of the gaps in an already over-stretched service as the needs of our ageing population increases.

We were also promised that the Childrens' Centres will be looking for local community solutions, so like our local branch library in Grove, we are now expected to find some help with this provision.  It is not clear yet, how the professionally-led services which were provided will be retained. My guess is that much will change, but hopefully if buildings can be provided at reduced costs, and staff and trained volunteers are available, then there may be a local solution.  However, I can make no promises at this time, except to say that I am hoping to set up a meeting with interested parties over the coming weeks.  We have funding available for this until March 2017.

Bus subsidies are another problem to be tackled locally with all county funding going by July this year.  Our public transport team at OCC are trying hard to find solutions using our current commercial services (Stagecoach and Thames Travel) in the hope that they may be able to add some of the local bus routes which will be axed, to their current schedule, but this is not easy and they have to be reliable and commercially viable or they will not continue.  Tenders are currently being negotiated, so more on this later in the year.  I know the current 38 Shopper Service will be very greatly missed.

One of the solutions which could help save some money is that instead of having a two-tier system with district and county councils both collecting council tax and providing services, would be to have one unitary council for the area.  The County had already commissioned a report on this which stated that at least £50M every year could be saved by having ONE unitary for the whole of Oxfordshire, and it was agreed at the budget council meeting that this would be taken forward for public consultation. However, in the meantime, district councils put forward a press release with their own ambitions for unitary status, but this would involve having FOUR separate unitary councils for Oxfordshire which would also take in areas of Northants and the Cotswolds.  Some of these councils are already sharing their services (like South and Vale districts), but taking on large areas of adult social care, child protection and highways and splitting them four ways, does not actually spell out how savings will be made  Also there does not appear to be a plan for the Fire & Rescue Service.  However, I am sure that our district councillors will go into this with their reports.  At the moment, all I can say is that all options appear to be on the table, and I would hope that the public will be given an opportunity to have their say.

I think that’s all I need to report at this time, except to say that I am back doing my monthly surgeries at Grove Library 10.30am – 11.30am if anyone would like to see me face to face.  Next date will be on Saturday 7th May.  Meanwhile, I am happy to answer any questions.

The meeting ended with a discussion on the options for the county road barrier in Cane Lane. A number of residents aired their views and it is anticipated that there will be a full consultation before any decision is made. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Wantage Community Hospital Closure

Today, I attended a meeting at County Hall where I was informed that Wantage Community Hospital will be closing from early summer because of problems with legionella in the hot water system.

This was a surprise, but although effective short term treatments have been applied, the legionella is likely to recur unless the plumbing for the whole site is replaced. We were told that the scale of the work required would make it very difficult to keep the hospital safely open at the same time. 

In view of the high cost of the works, it has been agreed that the future role of Wantage Community Hospital should be included in a wider planned public consultation in the autumn. Hopefully more information will be made available about this at a later date.

The press release can be found on the Oxford Health website here.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Wantage - Open Church and Tower

This is definitely one for the "views" section of this blog. On Saturday 16 April, Wantage Parish Church had an open day with the 16 m high tower open for visitors and stalls and cream teas on terra firma inside the church.

The tower dates from the 13th century and there is an initial climb up 37 stone steps to the ringing chamber. This is of interest in its own right and contains the winding and chiming mechanisms for the clock as well as a copy of Betjeman's "Wantage Bells" written in his own hand.

To get to the top of the tower, there are a number of wooden ladders and stairways around the bell chamber and you finally emerge on to the roof on hands and knees through a small door. This would have been a struggle for me after recent medical treatment, so I elected to remain in the ringing chamber and the fine views above are thanks to my husband. These show both the historic character of Wantage and its changing face with some of the recent developments.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Road Closures Coming Up

A338 Station Road, Grove
Temporary Road Closure from Bam Nuttall Ltd at the railway bridge, while essential bridge installation works are carried out.  From 19 - 21 March 2016 starting at 23.00 hrs Saturday and ending at 0.400 hrs Monday.  There may be a contingency road closure the following weekend 26 March - 28 March 2016 at the same times, if necessary.

Wantage A417 Charlton Road
Temporary Road Closure and 'No Waiting' restriction in place on 14 March for 5 nights (20.00 hrs - 06.00 hrs) in order to facilitate carriageway maintenance works.

Wantage Tinkerbush Lane
Temporary Road Closure on 15 March for one day only in order to facilitate carriagegway maintenance works.

All of these closures are coming up shortly so thought it useful to give everyone a 'heads up' in advance!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cow Lane Bridge Takes Shape

Today, it was bright and sunny, but also somewhat cold, so I decided to go for a local walk along Cow Lane in Grove. This is a popular green corridor for local residents, dog walkers and horse riders and will become an even more important amenity once all the future housing development is built. Using this route, I have walked all the way from Grove to the Hanneys a number of times and it it a great rural walk amongst the local wildlife. At the moment, however, you can only walk a limited distance along the lane because it is blocked due to a new bridge being built over the railway. This is, of course, all part of the electrification of the Great Western route and the old bridge was too low to accommodate the overhead lines.

Anyway, the photos above give an idea of how the new bridge is taking shape and what it looks like. One of the photos also shows the foundation for one of the supporting masts for the overhead line,  although it looks like most of the piling still remains to be done with pipes scattered along the side of the track. The latest status of work on the Oxfordshire section can be found at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/great-western-route-modernisation/oxfordshire/.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Update on County Council Matters


I presented my report to Grove Parish Council regarding my activities on Tuesday evening to the full council meeting.  I thought it would be useful to make it available here with more detail. Meetings that I have attended this year include the Wantage and Grove Traffic Advisory Committee (this includes issues raised by Grove Parish Council and Wantage Town Council on a regular basis). With no local highways budget now to do anything, everything is supposed to be reported to Fix My Street in order to get it done.   May I advise residents who wish to report a problem to use this link provided.  It will also keep track of what is reported.  I believe that this method means that someone will come out and assess the work and it will be prioritised.

I also attended the Wantage and Faringdon Locality meeting, where again, there was much said by the officers from the council attending the meeting, but with budget restrictions in the pipeline, very little is promised.  Cuts to services are happening as we speak, in particular, the Children’s Centres, Day Centres, bus subsidy withdrawals, roads and highways works etc.  However,  many residents already know about this and for this reason, parishes and towns are expected to take on more.  Fortunately, Grove Parish Council have agreed to take on some of the County Council's grass-cutting responsibilities, because they are already cutting grass to a high standard in the village, so I am pleased that this will continue.  Too often, when I get complaints about grass-cutting in Grove, it turns out to be due to a contractor doing the work on behalf of the district council.  Hopefully, in the future, all of this will be managed by the parish who have their own grounds staff and machinery.

Meanwhile, today saw the announcement by the Home Secretary regarding closer working and co-operation between all emergency services which means that the County Council will no longer be managing the local fire service.  This will now come under the local PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner).  I am sure more details on this will emerge, but locally as cuts in the police service continue, our police counter by the Library in Wantage has been closed.  If you will recall, this move was published on my blog several years ago, when the local police station in Wantage was closing and the County worked with Thames Valley Police to make available this counter space by the Library for their use.  I am sad that after fighting for this to happen and keep some police presence in the town, some years down the line, it has been closed anyway!

Meanwhile, I held my surgery in January and had many issues raised again, including parking on verges and grassed areas – an age old chestnut!  Some of the issues raised at my surgery do involve the police, especially where inconsiderate parking is involved.  It is worth noting that the PCSO surgery at Grove Library often follows on from my surgery on Saturday mornings, so please do come along to see our PCSO Tom Walcott Smith if your concern is regarding police matters.

The next meeting I shall attend at the County Council will be the February Budget Council meeting.  However, until the government recognises the problems they are causing local councils by reducing their settlement for local services, without allowing us to raise council tax without a costly referendum, then unfortunately this situation will continue.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas and New Year 2016

On my return from Midnight Mass at Grove Parish Church, I should like to wish all residents of Grove and Wantage a Happy Christmas and healthy New Year 2016.  This photograph (above) was taken earlier in December when I attended Maggies Christmas Carol service at Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford.  Maggies provides support for all those touched by cancer and is based at the Churchill Hospital site in Oxford.  All monies raised from this concert went to this very worthy cause.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Oxford Mail Hospital Heroes Team Award

Last night, I was delighted to attend the Annual Staff Recognition Awards ceremony for the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust at Oxford Town Hall.  As you will see from the photos shown above, the Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Ward of the Churchill Hospital won the Team Award for the Oxford Mail Hospital Heroes.

I nominated this magnificent team due to the excellent care they gave me during my 3 week stay on the ward whilst recovering from major surgery in May this year.  This was the icing on the cake following my recovery over the summer months, which allowed me to resume some of my council duties in September.  You can read the full story here.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday

This photograph (above) was taken in June at Court Hill, Wantage near Letcombe Regis and seems a beautiful and fitting display of wild poppies to commemorate today when we remember our fallen members of the armed forces.

This morning, I attended the Remembrance Day service at St. John's Parish Church in Grove, where we paid tribute to those who died in service during both World Wars and beyond.  It was a full house with many young Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides all presenting their flags and standards in the church.  It was also good to catch up with members of the community after the service.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Budget Consultation and Children's Centres

The County Council is currently consulting on its budget proposals for 2016/17 until 2019/20 where £50m of savings will have to be made on top of those already announced in previous years' budgets.  This consultation has started on 20th October and details can be found at the County website at

Public events are being held from 7 - 8.30pm on the following dates and venues:

27th October at County Hall
2nd November at Banbury Town Hall
5th November at the Regal Centre, Wallingford

However, one of the proposals which I need to alert residents to, is the potential threat to our Children's Centres, especially those which are run locally to support families in the community.  Our Grove and Hanneys Children's Centre meet at St. John the Baptist Church meeting rooms and in Wantage meetings are held at the Butler Centre in Church Street.  If you wish to have your say on these services and how they will affect you please go to the following link.  
All details on the options proposed are available to read at the above link.  As you will see if you click on the appropriate file for our local centres, there are a considerable number of families using these services managed  by Action for Children on our behalf.  I am sure that these services will be sorely missed if we lose them now, especially as new families move into the area due to the housing development planned.  Please make sure you send in your comments whilst this consultation is live.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Cow Lane Closure

I should like to notify residents about the forthcoming closure of Cow Lane which is coming up on 13th October.  The duration of the closure is expected to be for about 35 weeks, which the notice (shown above) claims takes up until 15th June 2016.  I expect much will depend on the weather and the other works going on in the area by Network Rail.  

This work aims to replace the railway bridge at the Hanneys crossing because of the rail electrification project.  As I previously reported here, some time ago, the replacement bridge at the A338 is currently going ahead and due to be completed at the end of this year.  

As this by-way is currently only used by horse-riders, cyclists, dog walkers and pedestrians, I hope everyone manages to find alternative recreational routes in the area during the time of the closure.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Back to work!

I have been recuperating over the summer months after major surgery in May, and have returned to my duties at Oxfordshire County Council.  I made a commitment to attend Full Council  in September and last Tuesday I managed to do so (see photo above).  It was good to be welcomed back with a cheer and I was able to thank everyone for their good wishes and flowers which had been sent to me whilst recovering at home.

Main items for discussion at the meeting were the re-organisation of senior management after our Chief Executive leaves this month, followed by a debate on the Local Transport Plan 4.

We also saw a demonstration at the front of County Hall regarding the future of Children's Centres which is due to go out for public consultation after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.  I shall provide further details about these plans in a further post.

Some residents may be interested in the Local Transport Plan and the Connecting Oxfordshire document which was the subject of meetings around the county last year including one held in Wantage.  You can see my previous blog post of the event here.  Although Grove station got a mention in the latest transport plan, improved bus services in the area didn't.  Also, more cycling measures were included for urban areas, but nothing which helps us here in the more rural parts of Oxfordshire.

However, my main issue locally, regarding both LTP4/Connecting Oxfordshire and the recent bus subsidies consultation, is the lack of any connectivity between Grove and our main employment sites at Didcot/Milton Park and Harwell by public transport.  I did speak about this subject at the council meeting last week, and felt very strongly that although I had sent in my responses to all of these consultations, nothing appeared to have been taken on board in the final documents.  Very woolly references are made in the 'responses received' part of the document, which appear just to be added in as an afterthought, but whether or not anything will be done is yet to be seen.  I called for all comments made at the full council meeting to be taken on board.

I was pleased to see the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group making a statement at the beginning of the meeting, making similar points: that we are taking much of the new housing in the area, but without any added public transport infrastructure which is required, especially if we wish to see less cars on our surrounding congested road systems at peak commuter times.

It was also good to hold my first council surgery last Saturday after my illness.  Many old customers wished me well and lots of casework to keep me busy!  Next surgery will be held on Saturday 10th October in Grove Library from 10.30am - 11.30am.  As usual, no appointment necessary, just come along to discuss issues of concern.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Verdant Grove

As I won't be blogging for a while, I thought I would post this nice green and verdant view of Letcombe Brook near to Grove village green that I took on one of my recent walks around the village.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

New Defibrillator for Community First Responders

I was delighted to provide a donation of £2,000 from my County Councillor Community budget fund towards a new emergency medical kit and defibrillator for the Wantage and Grove Community First Responders.  The photographs above show the new kit on display on Grove Green.

The community first responders are a group of local volunteers who provide emergency life support to the local community, dispatched by the South Central Ambulance Service to '999' calls whilst an ambulance is also en route. The group currently consists of 12 responders, but there are currently only 6 medical kits which have to be constantly moved round.  This new kit means there will now be an extra one available to respond in an emergency, helping to save more lives within the local community.

The group currently respond to 40-50 emergency calls each month and rely solely on the generosity of local fundraising to support the group and buy new equipment and replace old kit. I was pleased that I was able to use funding from my last year's community fund before it was curtailed this February due to the current budget pressures at the County Council.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

St Ives Footbridge Repairs

I reported the repairs which needed doing to the bridge over Letcombe Brook on St. Ives footpath (shown above) after a resident came to my surgery to report it in December.  As you will see, it has now been done.  I used FixMyStreet, which is a good way of reporting problems as you receive updates and can check on their status. Alternatively, you can use Street Maintenance A-Z  on the County Council website.

I will only be posting sporadically to this blog for a while for health reasons, but will resume normal service as soon as I can.  Meanwhile, I hope to have my next surgery at the Library on 11th April, but after that I shall have a break from surgeries until further notice.  I shall inform the Libary once I know when I shall be able to come back again.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas to Everyone!

This year there were new lights in the tree outside County Hall as shown in the photo above, so I am taking the opportunity of sharing this with everyone at Christmas time.   They look prettier than the picture in reality as they have 'snowdrops' falling which is difficult to capture on my mobile 'phone!

I have only just recovered from a bout of 'flu and I know others have also been suffering, but hopefully now Christmas Eve is here, we can all relax and enjoy the festive spirit.

May I take this opportunity of wishing all residents of Grove and Wantage a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2015.  

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hanneys Rail Bridge and Cow Lane Closure

The next bridge to be done by Network Rail for continuing the electrification programme in our area is the Hanneys rail crossing at Cow Lane which is the bridleway shown in the above photo (right).   There are several notices at the entrance to the by-way (photo above left), which explain the temporary closure of the bridge from 20th January until 2nd February 2015 whilst ground investigation works take place.  

The bridge will be reduced in width, but there will be no change to the usage of the bridleway for pedestrians, cyclists, horseriders and farm machinery in the future.  The main works to the bridge itself will take place later in the year.  Dates have not yet been confirmed.

I was delighted to be at the re-opening of the A417 last week after the successful completion of the Challow bridge which happened on schedule as I had posted here previously.