Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Events Around Oxfordshire and Beyond

Visit to Bicester Heritage Museum

As Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, I am rapidly discovering such wonderful places in this beautiful county which I haven't had the pleasure of visiting.  Recently I was taking part in a tour of the Bicester Heritage Museum at the invitation of the Mayor and as you can see from the photo above, it was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion seeing a variety of vintage cars on display.

Other events I have attended include Royal visits, awards ceremonies, charity concerts, and more recently the Remembrance services around the county.  This year, I was at the St. Giles War Memorial in the morning and attended the Didcot Remembrance service during the afternoon.  It was a very cold day, but  important that we pay our respects to those who lost their lives during the two world wars.  Both were very moving occasions at which it was a great honour to represent the County Council and lay a wreath at each ceremony.

On Monday, this week it was a pleasure to support the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra in their fantastic performance at the Youth Proms 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall.  Again, an event I shall long remember.  I will continue to keep you updated here when I can, but please follow me on Twitter if you want to keep up from day to day.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Autumn Escapes


This autumn has been wonderful with the colours changing and I have been out and about in Oxfordshire doing many duties as Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council.
The first photograph shows me receiving a basket of apples which had been picked from the orchards at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney.  This is an event which happens during the Michaelmas time of year when the harvest is coming in and represents the peppercorn rent that the museum pays to the County Council so that access to the museum continues to be available to families in the county.  You can read the full story on the county council website.

The second photo shows me in Wytham Woods near to Oxford where I had attended a Blue Plaques unveiling event to commemorate the ffennell family's gift to Oxford University to use the woods for research in memory of their daughter.  After the official unveiling of the plaque, we were taken on a walk through the woods to appreciate the wonderful surroundings.  Here I am captured under the canopy of a 200 year old beech tree.  So these memorable events are two of many I have enjoyed undertaking in my role representing the County Council in Oxfordshire.  Do continue to follow me on Twitter for regular updates of my activities day to day.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Maggie's Culture Crawl in Oxford


At the weekend, I completed the Maggie's Culture Crawl in Oxford raising funds for this local charity based at the Churchill hospital which supports cancer sufferers and their families and friends.  I have raised over £400 so far on my Just Giving page.  The photo above shows my husband and I at the finish of the 8 mile walk at Maggie's Centre.

If you wish to donate to this worthy cause, there is still time and I should like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who have given so generously both online and in cash.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Oxfordshire Chairman Update


It has been a very busy month since I returned from holiday with our full Council meeting taking place this week.  I was able to report on several of the key events I have attended and some events coming up.  Special mention was made of the evening I spent on HMS Victory at Portsmouth (photo above) where I collected an award on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council.  This was a silver award in the Employer Recognition Scheme for the work we do with reservists and sponsored by SERFCA (South East Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association).  It was a chilly evening, some of it spent touring the decks below, whilst the main awards ceremony took place on the upper deck as shown.

Other events to note were two Royal visits, one at Kelmscott Manor where we greeted the Duke of Gloucester who is Patron of the Society of Antiquaries in London and was to be shown around the Manor.  It was also a great honour to welcome the Duke of Cambridge to Oxford for a Police Conference on Mental Health where I was first to congratulate him on the announcement of their 3rd child. The news had only been made public the day before, so the press on hand were eager to hear his response.  He thanked me and admitted they were not having much sleep at present, but hoped they would be able to celebrate soon!

There is currently a magnificent Medieval Mosaic on display at County Hall in the Grand Jury Room, which is in the Guinness Book of records and replicates the Bayeaux tapestry, though this one is made of small steel pieces.  It is really worth a visit whilst in Oxford if the room is open on that day.  You can check by visiting their website to see more details.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Back from Dorset


After spending a relaxing break in Dorset walking the South West Coast Path as seen in the photograph above, it's time to get back to my Council duties again. Much to catch up on, but I needed the break to recharge batteries!   

This picture shows me descending from Golden Cap down to Seatown where we were able to complete the evening watching the Red Arrows display over Lyme Regis.  Much of the coastal walking route is owned by the National Trust and remains unspoilt, but well maintained.  Long may this continue to enable us to enjoy the countryside with such splendid sea views.

September will be a very busy month for me as Chairman of the Council and my diary is full of events coming up including chairing the next council meeting. I shall try and keep you posted on Twitter when I can!


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.