Labour Doorstep | Why you may not have seen us around and about in Cowick

Earlier today, I and my Cowick Labour colleagues were out talking to residents about issues affecting them – an operation we refer to as #LabourDoorstep.

We picked up many instances of casework:

1) Route of the P Bus – especially for residents with long-term illnesses
2) State of glass recycling bank at St Thomas Shopping Precinct
3) Uneven and damage pavement on Bowhay Lane
4) Abandoned cars with no current tax disc
6) Comments on the recent Cowick Street improvements in St. Thomas

7) #CostOfCameron

In addition, we received one or two comments about never being seen around in the Ward.

Is this a fair comment? It probably would be if we were full-time councillor, but we’re not.

So how do we spend our time?

Well, dealing with the casework above and others that come to use from phone calls, e-mails, organised meetings with community groups and residents does take time, as do the regular schedule of council meetings and councillor briefings.

And each week I try to spend some time week walking around the Ward  and riding the P bus talking to residents – but admittedly this is normally during the working day.

Cowick Ward Image
Map of the Cowick ward

Presented below is a table of key facts about our ward: from the 2011 Census for Cowick.

Main Census Indicators – Cowick
Indicator Cowick Exeter Ward*
Population 5,650 117,773 13th
Households 2,315 49,242 17th
Population change since 2001 – 0.1% 6.0% 14th
Persons aged under 16 18.3% 15.8% 7th
Persons of working age (16 – 64) 58.9% 68.6% 16th
Persons of retirement age 22.6% 15.6% 2nd
Persons of non white ethnic group 2.1% 6.9% 17th
Persons stating general health ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ 5.9% 4.8% 3rd
Persons aged 16 – 74 with no qualifications 27.0% 18.3% 3rd
Persons aged 16 – 74 with degree level qualifications 19.3% 28.6% 16th
Persons aged 16 – 74 who are full time students 4.8% 16.4% 17th
Households with no cars / vans 21.3% 27.1% 12th
Households rented from local authority / housing association 13.6% 17.0% 8th
Average household size 2.4 2.3 3rd
Households with no central heating 4.4% 5.3% 11th

* Rank out of the 18 wards in the city

You can see from the table, that there are 2315 households in Cowick.

Over the course of a year we might carry out 50 Labour Doorstep sessions

Each Labour Doorstep session lasts about 2 hours and I guess we might speak to 25 households if we’re lucky.

The means we might talk to 1,250 households each year .

And that equates to talking to each household every 2 years…but that’s only if someone is in.

We may have only talked to 25 households yesterday, but we knocked on over 100 doors.

We try to carry out Labour Doorstep sessions over weekends, early evenings, daytime and our records show us when we last spoke to someone.

We still see on our sheets last contact dates before 2000 – not many, but enough. So if you are one of these, sorry

If no-one was in we left an A5 leaflet with contact details of the full Cowick Labour team – City Councillors, County Councillor and MP – on one side and on the other a fill-in slip to raise an issue with us.

And face-to-face isn’t the only method we  use – we try and phone residents in the Ward if we have a contact phone numnber, there’s the Cowick Labour Councillors Facebook page, I have my own Facebook page, there’s the Cowick page on Exeter Labour Party website, I have contact details on Exeter City Council website, you can always find me on twitter as @CllrPaul4Cowick and of course this blog.

None of the previous covers the regular newsletters – and occasional street updates – we push through your letterbox. You may not read them, but that is part of our strategy of letting you know what we’re up to in Cowick

We do try and reach you, honest. But please remember that communication is a 2-way process – we do try and make contact with you, but you can always reach us.

We do listen

Cowick Deserves Better Buses | Our follow-up meeting with Stagecoach SW

In June we held a public meeting at St Thomas Baptist Church as part of our Cowick Deserves Better Buses  campaign to try and make the buses in the ward serve the needs of the community and residents – indeed, be a public transport system again. We were fortunate to have Robert Williams, the recently appointed Commercial Director for Stagecoach, join us.

As we pointed out at the meeting, one of the problems regarding bus services in Exeter is that they are run as a commercial enterprise by Stagecoach SW , with only a limited number of (mainly evening services) being subsidised by Devon County Council. Indeed the P service only runs in the evenings and on Sundays with financial support from DCC.

So, despite popular belief, So,  councillors at both Exeter City and Devon County Councillors have little or no say in the routes that Stagecoach SW run.

The overwhelming feeling from that meeting was in agreement  with a  suggested route  along Buddle Lane and re-routing one of the Exwick buses down Okehampton Street. These proposals reflect some of the ideas that I had come to and of those I spoke to on my mobile “bus surgeries”

I have had discussions with officers at DCC about the possibility of using subsidy to support this changes of the – but financial constraints means that they cannot even look at this possibility at the moment.

Cllr Morris and I also pushed for a follow-up meeting with Mr Williams and the even-more recently appointed Managing Director of Stagecoach SW, Mike Watson.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over dates, the meeting finally took place last week.

When the changes were made to the P/E/F1/F2 routes in 2006, the outcome was little change to passsengr numbers on the Cowick route yet there was a significant increase in passenger numbers on the Exwick routes.

They also suggested that there was no general public outcry at the time of the changes, and hinted that perhaps that they might have taken different decisions if there had been.

The Stagecoach management team have agreed to go away and look at the current figures in more depth and we hope to reconvene in a couple of weeks time, although I’m certainly not promising that they will come back with a favourable outcome.


[P Bus route] Follow-up to “Better Buses for Cowick” public meeting in June 2013

It’s probably time for an update following the Better Buses for Cowick public meeting held at St Thomas Baptist Church back in June.

One of the problems regarding bus services in Exeter is that they are run as a commercial enterprise by Stagecoach SW. That means  councillors at both Exeter City and Devon County Councillors have little or no say in the routes that Stagecoach SW run.

DCC do subsidise a limited number routes – and  the P route  only runs in the evenings and on Sundays with this financial support from DCC, as Stagecoach say they cannot operate these services at a profit.

There was  overwhelming agreement  with a suggested route  along Buddle Lane and re-routing one of the Exwick buses down Okehampton Street.

I’ve spoken with officers at DCC about the possibility of using subsidy to support the changes of the route you suggest – but financial constraints means that they cannot even look at this possibility at the moment.

Another of the hopes from our public meeting in June at St Thomas Baptist Church on our campaign to try and deliver Better Buses for Cowick  was to have a follow-up meeting with Robert Williams, the recently appointed Commercial Director for Stagecoach SW and the even more recently appointed Managing Director of Stagecoach SW, Mike Watson.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over dates, the meeting finally took place last week.

When alterations were made to the P/E/F1/F2 routes back in 2006, the Stagecoach SW senior managers pointed out  there was no general public outcry at the time of the changes. They also point out that the outcome was little change to passenger numbers on the Cowick route yet there was a significant increase in passenger numbers on the Exwick routes, so they are reluctant to make any changes to the routes at present.

They have agreed to go away and look at the current figures in more depth and we hope to reconvene in a couple of weeks time, although I’m certainly not promising that they will come back with an anymore favourable outcome.

I’m sorry that this still hasn’t been resolved as yet, but I and my Labour colleagues have not let the matter drop

E&E | Councillors seek meeting with Stagecoach over problem bus route




07 September 2013

Councillors seek meeting with Stagecoach over problem bus route

LOCAL councillors Heather Morris and Paul Bull are trying to secure a date for a meeting with Stagecoach’s new managing director within the next fortnight to discuss the P bus route and the problems that residents have been experiencing.

The problem has been ongoing for several years with residents unhappy that there is no direct bus from the top of Dunsford Road to the doctors’ surgery in Cowick Street.

However, following a public meeting in June organised by the councillors and which more than 75 residents attended, they have told Community News that they would like to reassure residents that they are continuing to try to find a solution that would benefit the majority.

Cowick Deserves Better Buses | Some alternative bus routes through Cowick?

Ahead of our Cowick Deserves Better Buses meeting, a local resident (and transport expert) has suggested some alternative bus routes through Cowick

Suggestion One – P and C.
An alternative route structure that would give a 30min interval on two routes serving Crossmeads and High Meadows.

P – Pennsylvania to High Meadows via Okehampton and Isleworth Roads

C – Pennsylvania to Crossmead via Cowick Street and Dunford Hill

It might be possible to construct a timetable where the P to High Meadows via Okehampton Road becomes the C form Crossmeads via Cowick Street (and visa versa) and so continue to run round the High Meadows/Barley Lane loop. This would provide a 15min interval service to Pennsylvania. The hourly evening and Sunday service (P/C) could run round the whole loop – Okehampton, Isleworth Road, High Meadows, Crossmeads and Cowick St.

This would require one extra bus to cover the two routes. This would also return the capacity on the route(s) to the original level now that smaller buses seem to have been introduced.

Example timetable:

Location Present Route Location New Route
Crossmeads 10.00 P Crossmeads 10.00 C
Crossmeads 10.20 P High Meadows 10.15 P
Crossmeads 10.40 P Crossmeads 10.30 C
Crossmeads 11.00 P High Meadows 10.45 P
Crossmeads 11.20 P Crossmeads 11.00 C
High Meadows 11.15 P
4 Buses   5 Buses  

Suggestion Two – P, C and H.
What are the P loadings like on the Pennsylvania side of town? If they do not warrant a 15min interval this may provide an answer.

Maintain the P bus to High Meadows via Okehampton Road (as per the original P route) at a 30min interval.

Introduce a new C service, also at a 30min interval from Crossmead to via Cowick Street and Queen Street to St David’s Station. This would improve the frequency of buses contacting the city centre to its principle station (the present H not being well timed for many trains) and provide new access to St David’s form the St Thomas side of town.

Ideally these routes (P and C) would be at 20min intervals. The new C could also provide a connection from the proposed new and more remote bus station and St David’s Station. Indeed if the new C ran every 15mins, and slotted between the H service, it would provide a very respectable 7-8 interval between the city centre and St David’s Station.

E&E | Stagecoach boss to face public over Exeter buses




01 May 2013

Stagecoach boss to face public over Exeter buses

STAGECOACH’S commercial director Robert Williams has agreed to attend a public meeting about bus routes serving Cowick.

The meeting is a result of a request sent to Mr Williams by city councillors Heather Morris and Paul Bull.

Cllr Morris said: “We are very pleased that Mr Williams has accepted our invitation and has responded as follows: ‘While bus services are an important part of a community, as a bus  comany we are not able to ignore that fact that there has to be a means of paying for those services.

“‘To run more services we need more passengers.

“‘I would be happy to attend a meeting to hear the concerns of the residents and their suggestions for how we might improve our services and attract more pasesngers.

“‘However, I do not wish to raise any hope or an expectation that any major change will be possible in the current economic climate.’”

Cllr Morris added: “We have approached Peter Fowler, associate minister from the Baptist Church in Dorset Avenue to ask if we can hold the meeting in one of their rooms.

“Peter has kindly agreed that we can.

“We therefore hope residents in Cowick will take this opportunity to discuss their concerns with Stagecoach directly and while Stagecoach’s response does not promise any major change we hope that Stagecoach will give serious consideration to any viable suggestions brought forward by residents.

“While we have organised this meeting for residents living in Cowick, the meeting will only be successful if residents attend.

“Therefore, both Cllr Bull and I will look to set a date for this meeting as soon as possible, and we will advertise the meeting through our newsletter which will be delivered to every household in Cowick.”

Cowick Deserves Better Buses – the view from a resident

Sometimes, but very very infrequently, councillors receive compliments, rather than gripes and groans. This is one such instrance:

Just a quick mail to thank you for your sterling but unfortunately unsuccessful efforts to get a half decent P bus service from Stagecoach for residents of Cowick.

I am sorry that your input has fallen on deaf ears but that is to be expected with Stagecoach, as they appear to always treat their customers (and Councillors it would seem!) with contempt.

I understand that they are a profit making organisation but some consideration for bus users would be good, as they are always more than happy to take all the subsidies that are on offer!

They complete miss the point when they talk about Crossmead passengers as it is not just that area that has no bus to the Health Centre but all of Cowick, including Barley farm Road, Berkshire Drive, Charnley Avenue, High Meadows Isleworth Road etc, etc

In a letter recently to Cllr Newcombe my wife wrote :–
“Regarding a bus service to access the local Health Centre for Cowick residents.

A simple solution would be for the current P bus to follow its present route until reaching the bottom of Isleworth Road where it could turn right into Buddle Lane, taking it down into Cowick Street, past the Health Centre and following the same route on its return journey.

Currently THREE buses from Exwick go along Buddle lane, so therefore go past the Health Centre (WHY??)

One could be diverted along Okehampton road to cover the gap left by the P bus.

If a bus covers Dunsford Road only this still excludes the majority of Cowick residents from accessing the Health Centre easily.”

Is this too simple for Stagecoach to understand or is it just that they are too arrogant to listen to ideas and reason?

Anyway I have had my moan. Thank you again for all your help and interest.

Cowick Deserves Better Buses | P bus – NOT IN SERVICE

Here’s a real example of how Stagecaoch serve the public in Cowick

Saturday 10 November was a wet horrible night and some Cowick residents were heading from Isleworth Road for town.

Rather than wait in the rain they caught the P bus at 18:33 on Isleworth Road and intending  to do the one-way loop up around Crossmead.

Little did they know that the service terminated at Crossmead as this was the time when Stagecoach stopped the daytime service and commenced the night-time timetable.

But the driver did not ask them to leave the bus at Crossmead – probably because the route went to the top of Barley Lane and down Barley Farm Road, passing another 4 stops before retacing its route back into town.

So at the Berkshire Drive stop, the driver politely asked these remaining passengers to get off the bus.

He then turned the indicators to NIS and proceeded to follow the route back down towards Isleworth Road to town, where these passengers wanted – and expected – to be taken!

I maintain that it would be more sensible to removes services in either the High Steet or Cheeke Street.

So what happened the residents? They had to walk down Newman Road – in the rain – to catch a bus from Buddle Lane.

To me it would seem more sensible for Stagecoach to take buses out of service in the city centre – either on the High Street or in Cheeke Street

Bus services in Cowick

Speaking to the residents of Cowick on the doorstep, on the streets, at bus stops and on the buses about bus services,  they remember the old C route serving Crossmead/Dunsford Road/Cowick Street so fondly that you would think that it had been withdrawn in the recent past. I’m sure it’s much longer ago that that!

Indeed, an entry on the Stagecoach South West Wikipedia website states:
In December 2006, Stagecoach announced that in 2007 the Exeter City P service will split into 2 different routes, P1 and P2, due to requests from residents in Crossmead complaining that the St Thomas health centre was inaccessible following changes in April 2003

Stagecoach spokesman Mark Whittle said [P Just Perfect As Bus Campaigners Told Service Will Be Back, E&E, 07 Dec 2006]
“Details are still being confirmed but there will be a P1 and P2 and they will run in a loop, which effectively means that there will be a P bus running along Cowick Street every half hour”

In March 2007 it was announced that the new service would not begin until September. [Bus Delivery Hold-Up Dashes Bid To Reroute P Service By Easter E&E 24 Mar 2007]
Many customers were left in the dark about the changes, and the idea of splitting the route was scrapped

What, of course is interesting, is that fact that now immediately by the Crossmead terminus a new development of 100 households has sprung up since 2009 – so increasing the need to have a direct that serves this and enables residents to reach the doctors’ surgery on Cowick Street.

All of the above begs various questions on the history of bus services in Exeter

The routes of C and P services prior to April 2003 when the C service was scrapped?

The route of the P service from April 2003 to March 2007?

When the current route for the P was introduced?

E&E | 08 November 2012 | Cowick News

08 November 2012 | 
Cowick News

COWICK city councillor Paul Bull has been out and about on the buses, and believes from talking to passengers that improvements could be made to the service that would benefit the ward.

He has started a Cowick Deserves Better Buses campaign after talking to to passengers.

For many, it is a 2-bus trip to access medical and health services provided by the St Thomas Medical Centre on Cowick Street, a difficult and taxing journey for those with mobility problems and young children in buggies.

Cllr Bull said: “Up to 8 buses an hour from Exwick stop at the First and Last bus stop allowing residents from Exwick convenient access to the health centre.

These often cause traffic congestion at this busy junction, inconveniencing Cowick residents opting to use their own private transport, yet no direct bus from Cowick goes to this end of Cowick Street

“It also means it is expensive to travel to reach the health centre.

“Patients either have to buy 4 single tickets or an Exeter Dayrider at £3.50 to make a bus journey to travelless than a mile as the crow flies.”

Cllr Bull as discovered it is easier fro residents in both Alphington and Exwick to travel to the doctors’ in Cowick Street by bus and told the Echo: “it may be more convenient for Cowick residents to use a doctors’ surgey in Pennsylvania if they rely on Stagecoach services”

Out and about on the buses, Cllr Bull found that many passengers had their own ideas on how to improve the Cowick service.

Cllr Bull said: “As we travelled down Isleworth Road, someone sais: ” Yu know what would be great? If this bus turned right at the bottom and went to the health centre. And to compensate, one of the three services from Exwick could go down Okehampton Street.’

“A simple solution obvious to passengers but which according to Stagecoach ‘doesn’t make commercial sense.'”