Friday, 22 July 2016

Balmy Summer Days


We have been enjoying some extraordinary hot summer days recently starting at the weekend when I had the pleasure of attending the Mayor of Henley's barn dance which was held at the Boat Festival at Henley on Thames.  You can see the photo above where I am standing next to the lovely boat Gloriana, which earlier in the day sailed up the river with all flags flying.  I was there during the evening to represent the County Council, and the setting by the river was particulary beautiful in the evening sun.
During the evening I took part in the charity raffle, and was lucky to win a couple of tickets to the Henley fringe festival to see Twelfth Night performed by Page 2 Stage Productions Ltd.  An excellent performance enjoyed in the gardens of Rupert House School in the town.
The lovely hot weather continues which means that we can all feel that summer is here at last.  
I have no planned surgeries in August, but hopefully will arrange some dates from September onwards.  I shall keep you posted.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Heathcare In Oxfordshire Roadshow

This is a reminder to all residents that there will be a drop-in session tomorrow evening Monday 18 July 6pm - 9pm at The Beacon in Wantage to discuss options for the future of healthcare in our area and across Oxfordshire.
Transforming Healthcare in Oxfordshire has been given much media attention over the past weeks as the OUH Trust needs to save money over the next few years and make sure funding is providing best value for residents.  More information can be found here.
This is your opportunity to have your say on healthcare in this area, so please go along to speak to the professionals.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Oxfordshire Veterans' Forum

Yesterday I attended the Oxfordshire Veterans' Forum at the Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon to hear about the ongoing work on the Oxfordshire Community Covenant.   The orginal covenant was signed several years ago and certainly needs updating to ensure that personnel leaving the military after service, can get the help and support they need.  You can see my original blog post on this subject here.

Discussions were held regardng the transition into civilian life and the opportunities available to those who have undertaken military service, right through to pension support for those seeking advice and help.  

Overall this was a very useful briefing and helps to keep us up to date with the help the County Council is able to give.  Working both with charities and district councils, in particular,  housing departments, is very important. I was pleased to be able to attend as Vice Chairman on this occasion to represent residents in Oxfordshire.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

White Lining Refresh on Denchworth Road in Grove

I am pleased to see that the white lines at the junction to the Denchworth Road have been refreshed yesterday.  As many residents will remember, this route was used by many motorists some time back as a short cut when the railway bridge on the A417 was closed for six months whilst work was undertaken as part of the Great Western Electrification project.

I had previously paid for such work out of my County Council Highways stewardship budget, but this is no longer available so I was concerned that the new white lining had worn out.  Thanks to some money being available in this year's budget, this work has now been completed.

I have other work on the list which I have discussed with County Highways, so I shall update you if and when these projects have been completed.
 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Manor Road in Wantage - Temporary Road Closure


This is to notify residents that a section of Manor Road in Wantage is to close temporarily from 25th July for up to 6 weeks.  This is so that Thames Water can carry out essential drainage works, which need to be completed over the summer.  Several residents in the area have suffered from flooding of their properties in the past, and this work will hopefully resolve these issues as well address the new houses being built there.

I attended an exhibition and drop-in session at the Comrades Club in Newbury Street held on Monday 20th June, which was organised by Thames Water.   Several local residents attended who could ask queries and voice any concerns on the closure.  A photo of the plans is shown above.

It was some time ago that a resident attended my local surgery in Grove Library to voice concerns over flooding to  homes and gardens in this area, so I am pleased that Thames Water are now taking action to resolve this issue.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Opening of Wantage Road Bridge



This morning, I was delighted to cut the ribbon to open the new A338 Wantage Road bridge over the railway line at Grove.  Plans to close the road for up to 6 months had originally been made back in January 2014, but was turned down by Oxfordshire County Council due to the 18 mile detour it would mean for drivers on this busy route.  I do remember a great deal of protests by local commuters at the time.

I have kept residents informed of progress on the work using this blog and updates in the Grove Community Newsletter, including the recent closures at weekends where works were being done to re-align the bridge after raising it to accommodate the electrification of the railway below. Thanks to all those involved in the project, we now have a brand new bridge as an entrance to Grove and Wantage on the main highway which will be there for years to come.

The next step I am campaigning for, is to re-open Grove railway station after it was closed during the Beeching cuts in the 1960's.  The new Local Transport Plan put together by the County Council has given it the green light, but the recent re-alignment of this new bridge means that the site will have to be moved. 

The original planning permission for the station site lapsed in 2011, so new plans and a business case need to be submitted to take this forward.  I attended the County Council Cabinet last week to speak on this important subject. It may take as long as the year 2030 to get this plan moving, but with more housing development scheduled in the area and no signs of improvement to our public transport system, the sooner we can see this happen, the better it will be for our community as hopefully, there will be less cars on our already congested roads.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

100th Anniversary of The Battle of the Somme


Yesterday, along with many others, I attended a commemoration service held for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at Oxford Town Hall, which was hosted by The Lord Mayor of Oxford.  The photograph above shows me in my official capacity of Vice Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council at the memorial plaque placed in honour of those who died serving the Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry during the Great War.

The poignant service was addressed by Brigadier Robin Draper CVO OBE who gave us a description of what it meant to be "Going over the Top" on 1st July 1916 in The Somme.  The event was organised by the Oxford Branch of The Royal Green Jackets Association.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Civic Briefing at RAF Croughton


Yesterday evening I attended a Civic Briefing at RAF Croughton at Brackley, Northamptonshire on my first official engagement as Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council.  This was so that I could hear first hand the plans that the USAF have for rationalising their sites in the UK.  The base is situated just across the border from Oxfordshire, and certainly impacts on the highway network across north Oxfordshire. There was much discussion about future access to the site for construction traffic and a new main gate.

We were told that due to cuts in the US defence budget, there are plans to consolidate all telecommunications and operational activities at Croughton, which means that RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth will now close.  This is due to take place around 2021/2022, but the operation to build brand new facilities at Croughton is on the horizon and needs a great deal of co-ordination.  There were several local residents at the briefing, as the US take their relationship with the local community very seriously.  We were also taken on a tour of the base so that we could see what there is currently, and where plans are to build the new facilities, which will include schools and more housing for families as well as the operational buildings.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

County Council Unitary Proposals

There has been much discussion and articles written in the press about the proposals to move towards unitary status for the 2-tier council system in Oxfordshire.  Unfortunately, this led to the district councils commissioning one study with PwC and the County Council undertaking another study with Grant Thornton.  The cost to taxpayers for both studies is around £100K. You can see the press article on the County Council website here.

I would urge all residents to take part in the survey on the link at the County Council's website, because it is important that the public have their say on this very important issue.  It is hoped that having one council running all services for the whole county will save several million pounds in ratepayers taxes and will enable people to understand more easily where responsibility for services lie. The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/oxfordshire-evidence

Friday, 20 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!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A338 Emergency Road Closure at Grove

Please find below a copy of a Temporary Emergency Traffic Regulation Order Notice – S14 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Emergency Road Closure

Grove Parish - A338 Station Road - Approximately 15 metres North of the Railway Bridge

Overnight EMERGENCY CLOSURE to facilitate road repair works due to subsidence

This Saturday 20 February overnight 9.00pm to 6.00am Sunday 21 February 2016

Suggested alternative route::  (A417. A420, A415, A338 and vice versa)
Via A417 WANTAGE, Mably Way, Denchworth Road, Challow Road, Faringdon Road, Stanford Road,  A420, KINGSTON BAGPUISE, A415 Witney Road, Abingdon Road, Kingston Road, FRILFORD, A338 and vice versa

Additional information:
The project is a bridge replacement for the Network Rail Great Western Electrification Project, with associated road works due to the new offline bridge being constructed. These specific works are for the stripping and relaying of sections of the existing road which has subsided.

For more information regarding this Emergency Closure, please contact Richard Foster of BAM Nuttall Ltd on 07900 452 984, email: richard.foster@bamnuttall.co.uk

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

COUNTY COUNCIL REPORT TO GROVE PARISH COUNCIL

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.