Plans to cut congestion

I set out below the latest WBC release on improved traffic management:

 

£250,000 funding win for smart traffic lights and crossing sensors

Wokingham Borough Council has been awarded £250,000 for smart traffic lights and crossings across the area. The Department for Transport gave the grant to support the use of new technology to cut congestion across the area, as well as reducing journey times and emissions.

 

Smart traffic light schemes are earmarked for ten locations across the borough. These will be more responsive than the current systems and will change as the traffic demands depending on the time of day. Another 39 locations will also see upgrades, covered through the council’s congestion management budget.

 

Forty locations will see smart crossing technologies installed. Push button traffic light crossings will be replaced with ones triggered by sensors, which will help with Covid-safe use of these going forward. These also have audio speakers, to support visually impaired residents.

 

This is part of the council’s wider plans to keep to the borough moving smoothly and cut congestion across the area. The funding will support schemes to cut congestion and build intelligent traffic schemes using technology.

 

The electronic systems will take data from sensors, lampposts and signs to identify in real time where problems are and solve them before they build up. These new signals, including those funded by the Department for Transport grant, will react to traffic in real time to help manage capacity on the borough’s roads.

 

Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, said: “We continue to work hard towards our priority of cutting congestion across our borough by making the most of smart technology. This funding award recognises the Department for Transport supporting us towards our goals and acknowledging our plans to do this as innovative and forward thinking.”

 

At 18 locations the council will take the opportunity to switch the traffic signals to be more energy efficient, with different types of low-voltage bulbs installed. LED bulbs will be used instead of halogen, which helps the council towards its goal of net zero carbon by 2030. These require less maintenance, are more reliable and cost less, as well as reducing energy consumption by about 78 per cent.

 

To support its air quality targets, the council will use almost a third of the Government funding to install air quality sensors at eight traffic light locations.  These will be used to improve evaluation of traffic management across the area, with air quality data being factored into future decisions.

 

The funding was announced earlier this month by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. The package will see councils across England receive a share of £15 million in government funding to improve their traffic light systems to cut congestion, boost safety and reduce journey times and emissions – a commitment set out in the recently announced Transport decarbonisation plan.

 

– ENDS –

 

Further information:

  1. More from Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, on jorgensen@wokingham.gov.uk
  2. Alternatively contact the communications, engagement and marketing team via CEM@wokingham.gov.uk

Read the full Department for Transport announcement via https://www.gov.uk/government/news/multimillion-pound-initiative-to-improve-local-roads-across-england

Lunch Club

On Thursday I spoke to the Wokingham Conservatives  Lunch Club event. It was great to be able to meet again for a lunch together instead of the Zoom calls we had been using.  When I went around the tables there was a good range of questions on President Biden’s Afghan errors, on the response to covid, on access to the NHS post pandemic, on migration, on economic recovery and on pensions. My answers were similar to those you can read on the website.

 

People leaving Afghanistan

As usual I am working over the week-end for urgent matters. If any of my constituents has  close contacts with another constituent who is also  a UK passport holder or former employee of the UK government in Afghanistan and they are having trouble getting on to one of the rescue flights, please let me know as there is an MP hotline I can try to see if more assistance can be given.

A Level and GCSE results

Congratulations to all those who have done well and obtained the grades they wanted in the recent assessments for national qualifications. Schools in the constituency have produced good results, allowing more young people to move into the 6th Form in a positive spirit or to go on to the university of their choice.  Well done to all the schools and teachers who have helped their students to a good outcome.

Earley BBQ

On Saturday evening it was good to join local members of the Conservative party for a BBQ in Earley.  There was a good range of questions about the pandemic, vaccinations, economic recovery, housing and planning. I also talked a bit about levelling up and ways of getting the NHS back to full running for non covid treatments.

Smiths level crossing Wokingham

I met with local residents, the main authorised user of the crossing and Network Rail today. Local residents find the warning noise made for each of the 123 trains a day using this piece of track very disruptive, along with bright traffic style lights on the crossing and spoken warnings when more than one train is involved.

Safety is rightly the priority. I queried again the high speed limit of 70 mph given that  this is a bend in the track close to the merger of the Waterloo and North Downs lines and close to Wokingham station to the west. Network Rail confirmed that in practice a train is likely to be travelling at half the speed limit on the bend to be safe, especially in wet and slippery conditions. The speed rating of the track affects the style of warnings needed.

Two of the local residents put their case well to Network Rail, who have promised to go away and see if they can work up proposals to keep the 4 authorised users safe but tackle the intrusive noise. The lights also need adjusting to reduce glare into homes whilst still being clearly visible to users on the ground near the crossing. I will follow up to see what solution is proposed.

Floods in Erftstadt, Germany

I was sorry to read of the serious floods on a couple of tributaries to the Rhine. Erftstadt was among the cluster of badly affected towns and is twinned with Wokingham. Wokingham sends condolences for the loss of lives in this disaster, and sympathy for all whose homes and lives have been disrupted. The pictures reveal the brute force of too much water scouring away roads and foundations, tossing cars into heaps of wreckage and reshaping the landscape in an unwelcome way. We wish the rescue services well and hope early action can be taken to restore essential services and provide homes for those who are suffering.

Shinfield lunch

It was good to join the Shinfield Conservatives branch for a garden lunch on Sunday at the Elm Tree in Beech Hill. The roast beef Sunday lunch was great, with members enjoying getting out and seeing each other again after lockdown. There was much discussion of how to handle the virus from here,as well as talk about the football final.

The government’s case for the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill

I thought it would be helpful for constituents to share this explanation of the government’s Bill being debated and voted on today:

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

• The first job of any government is to keep people safe, and we have been committed to cutting crime and reforming our justice system so that it serves the law-abiding majority.

• That is why, through our new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we are overhauling our justice system to give the police and courts the powers they need to keep our streets safe, while providing greater opportunities for offenders to turn their lives around and better contribute to society.

We are reforming our justice system to make sure criminals spend longer in jail:

• Extending Whole Life Orders for the premeditated murder of a child as well as ending the automatic early release of dangerous criminals – keeping the worst offenders behind bars and off our streets. These measures send a clear message that those who commit the most heinous crimes will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. As well as Whole Life Orders, new powers announced today will halt the automatic early release of offenders convicted of serious violent and sexual offences – ensuring they spend at least two-thirds of their sentence behind bars.

• Introducing life sentences for killer drivers, restoring faith in our justice system that the punishment must fit the crime. Drivers who cause fatal accidents while speeding, racing, using a mobile phone or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol will now face life sentences, ensuring they feel the full force of the law for their selfish actions that cause the deaths of loved ones on our roads.

• Increasing the maximum penalty for criminal damage of a memorial from three months to 10 years, protecting our memorials from desecration. The desecration of our war memorials is an abhorrent act and offenders will face the full force of the law for their actions.

• Doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from twelve months to two years. In line with our manifesto commitment, this legislation doubles the maximum sentence for those convicted of assaults on frontline staff including police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

• Extending ‘positions of trust’ laws to protect teenagers from abuse by sports coaches and religious leaders so that our young people can trust the adults they look to for support. This landmark step to protect our young people sends a clear message that positions of trust must not be abused by the very people that our young people look up to and seek guidance from.

• Introducing ‘Kay’s Law’ to better protect victims and witnesses in cases of violent and sexual offences. ‘Kay’s Law’ encourages the police to impose strict conditions on bail in high harm cases, introduces new pre-charge bail time periods for suspects and introduces a new duty to seek the views of victims on pre-charge bail conditions. ‘Kay’s Law’ is in memory of Kay Richardson who tragically lost her life at her ex-partner’s hands while he was released under investigation, rather than on bail. He committed suicide before he could be convicted.

• Introducing tougher community sentences – ensuring offenders give back to society. The measures will double the amount of time offenders can be subject to curfew restrictions, rising from 12 months to two years.

• Enabling profoundly deaf people to sit on juries – extending participation in our justice system further into our society. Under the new legislation a British Sign Language Interpreter will be allowed to be present in the jury deliberation room.

We are backing the police to cut crime:

• Enshrining the Police Covenant into law – strengthening the support for serving and retired officers and their families. The covenant creates a statutory duty for the Government to do more to support the police, both those currently serving and retired, whilst also placing a focus on physical protection, health and wellbeing, as well as support for families.

• Introducing Serious Violence Reduction Orders to help officers target persistent offenders. SVRO’s are court-imposed orders which will apply to individuals previously convicted of carrying a knife or offensive weapon. Police will be able to stop and search those who are subject to an SVRO to check if they are carrying a knife or offensive weapon again.

• Strengthening police powers to tackle non-violent protests that cause significant disruption to the public. The measures in the Bill will allow the police to take a more proactive approach in managing highly disruptive protests and will increase the police’s ability to prevent protests causing serious disruption to the public.

• Introducing Homicide Reviews where an offensive weapon was involved to identify lessons to be learnt and reduce violent crime. We are introducing a requirement on the police, local authorities, and local health boards to review the circumstances of homicides involving the use of an offensive weapon. The purpose of the review is to identify the lessons to be learnt from the tragic death and to decide whether further action should be taken.

• Criminalising trespass and strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments that can cause harm, disruption and distress to our local communities. Under the new legislation police will have the power to seize vehicles and arrest or fine trespassers who intend to reside on private and public land without permission, whilst also ensuring they are not able to return for at least 12 months. The new criminal offence will carry a maximum sentence of three months in prison, a fine of up to £2,500 or both.

This builds on our record of cutting crime and backing our frontline officers:

• Boosting police funding by £636 million this year, ensuring our frontline officers have everything need to keep us safe. This brings total police funding up to £15.8 billion for 2021-2022, including £400 million to recruit 20,000 new officers by 2023, £914 million for counter-terrorism policing, and £1.1 billion to target national priorities such as reducing serious violence and clamping down on county lines.

• Recruiting 20,000 new police officers, helping to keep our streets safe. We have already recruited 8,771 new officers, and we are on track to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023. As part of this year’s £636 million police funding settlement, more than £400 million will go towards recruiting additional officers.

• Cutting crime by 9 per cent between March 2019 and March 2020, delivering on our promise to cut crime in our communities. In the year before the pandemic, overall crime fell by 9 per cent – demonstrating that by putting more police on the streets, with increased investment and resources, we are delivering on our promise to cut crime and build back safer.

• Delivering an extra £30 million to help the police enforce coronavirus regulations, helping to protect the NHS and save lives. The £30 million funding will allow police forces to increase patrols in town centres, ensuring that people are complying with the new restrictions, particularly in high-risk areas.

• Dismantling county lines gangs through a £40 million funding boost, keeping our towns and children safe from drug gangs. The £40 million of new money to tackle county lines and drugs supply brings the total invested to £65 million since November 2019. The funding has already seen more than 3,400 people arrested, more than 550 lines closed, more than £9 million street value of drugs and £1.5 million cash seized and more than 770 vulnerable people safeguarded.

• Delivering £148 million of new investment to cut crime and protect communities from the scourge of illegal drugs. This funding represents a comprehensive drive to cut drug-fuelled crime and violence in communities as we build back safer after the pandemic. Our investment includes £28 million for Project ADDER that brings together the police and drug recovery services to target and reduce drug-related offending and drug use.

• Delivering £45 million through the Safer Streets Fund to tackle theft, robberies and burglaries in our towns. This funding delivers proven measures to cut neighbourhood crime including locked gates around alleyways, increased street-lighting and the installation of CCTV. The third round of the Safer Streets Fund is now open and will focus on projects that help women and girls feel safer in our communities.

Amendments:

• Pet Theft. We are deeply concerned by the rise in pet theft, and we are keen to take the right action to tackle this abhorrent and distressing crime. That is why we have launched the cross-Government Pet Theft Taskforce to undertake an end-to-end review of pet theft and consider every aspect from prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution. The taskforce will report in the summer and begin work to implement approved policy recommendations in the autumn. This amendment would reduce the sentence available for theft of a pet from seven years down to a maximum of two years. It is our intention to make any necessary changes to this Bill in the Lords, before it returns to the Commons once we have finalised the detail of exactly what is needed, using a range of powers including primary legislation.

• Minimum sentences for rape. We recognise that sexual violence is a devastating crime that can have life-long impacts on victims and survivors. The maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment and it is already the case that rape offenders receive lengthy sentences, with two thirds in 2020 receiving custodial sentences above the seven-year minimum that Labour is proposing. By extending the automatic release point, we are already increasing the time served in custody of the same offenders that the Labour amendment would affect.

• Voyeurism. We recognise the importance of ensuring that the law on taking and sharing intimate images is effectively protecting victims and we share concerns about reports of these distressing incidents. That is why we have asked the Law Commission to carry out a detailed review of the law around the taking, making and sharing of intimate images without consent. It is important that we consider the Law Commission’s analysis and recommendations before committing to changing legislation in this area.

• Increasing maximum sentences for assaulting retail workers. It is completely unacceptable to threaten or assault retail staff, especially when they are working so hard to keep vital services running. That is why we have led work with the retail sector to understand their concerns. Our review identified that victims and employers not reporting offences and wider concerns about police handling of reports was the key issue to address, rather than creating a new specific offence which is already covered in law. We certainly do not rule out an amendment on this issue – if appropriate – in the Lords.

• Increasing maximum sentences for allowing a child to suffer injury or death. We can confirm that officials are conducting a review into the law in this area, as the matter is more complex than simply increasing the maximum penalty.

• Street Harassment. We recognise the shocking extent of street harassment suffered particularly by women and girls and the strength of feeling in the House concerning the need for a new offence. While there are existing offences available to address sexual harassment, we remain open-minded on how to further address this issue. Tackling sexual harassment is not a matter we can expect the criminal law to solve on its own and our VAWG strategy will be seeking to drive cultural change through education and awareness raising.

• ‘Sex for rent’. ‘Sex for rent’ is an abhorrent practice and we are committed to protecting vulnerable individuals from harm and exploitation. However, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 already covers many of the offences involved in ‘sex for rent’ cases and recently the CPS pursued the prosecution of a man for two such alleged offences under the Sexual Offences Act. We are continuing to examine this issue in the context of the development of our VAWG strategy and in the light of the outcome of the current criminal proceedings.

• Sex offenders: change of name. We already have some of the toughest measures in the world to manage sex offenders, and the provisions in the Bill, which have been informed by feedback from the police, will help ensure our system is as robust, adaptable and effective as possible. If a registered sex offender changes their name, the existing law requires them to notify the police within three days. Failure to do so is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. We are committed to ensuring the current system is working and we intend to undertake a review of the issue to understand the scale of the problem and address any weaknesses.

• New offence of failing to stop or report incidents involving actual or potential serious or fatal injury with 14-year max penalty. We take road safety very seriously and we understand the traumatic effects of drivers failing to stop when a person is caused serious injury or even killed. We know that in a small number of cases, the failure to stop and report may be related to an event which leads to the death or serious injury of another person. But in the vast majority of cases, convictions for failure to stop are against drivers who have failed to stop, after causing minor property damage or low-level personal injury. The proposed amendment would create serious anomalies within the driving offences framework and as a result the Department for Transport are exploring how to address the offence in the wider context of road safety.

Answer to my Parliamentary Question on areas of the economy with labour shortages

The Department for Work and Pensions has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (12056):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to train more people to fill shortages in (a) HGV driving, (b) farming, (c) construction and (d) other areas with labour shortages. (12056)

Tabled on: 08 June 2021

Answer:
Mims Davies:
The Department is continuing to work with the Department for Education, Devolved Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as other Government Departments to fill vacancies in construction, logistics, farming and other sectors, offering training for those who need it, and securing jobs directly for those ready to move into roles.

DWP’s Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) helps employers to fill job vacancies in sectors with a high demand for workers. In the haulage sector we have been running SWAPs in partnership with employers and trade associations, including the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Eddie Stobart Logistics, to deliver tailored training to our customers so that they can obtain their HGV licence and the skills they need to enter the logistics sector as a HGV driver.

In agriculture we have worked with DEFRA and key Trade Associations, including the National Farmers Union, to develop a regional recruitment strategy that utilises DWP’s Jobcentre Plus network, fosters strong local links between employers and Work Coaches, and gives jobseekers the skills and knowledge they need to enter the sector.

In construction, DWP support the Construction Skills Delivery Group to improve and promote the existing range of training offers which include new occupational traineeships, T Levels, flexible apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps, and free L3 qualifications for adults who do not already have A levels or equivalent.

The answer was submitted on 17 Jun 2021 at 15:54.