Author Archives: John

From your local MP – David Johnston

I’ve just launched a campaign to help young people at local state schools get work experience at the great employers we have in the constituency. This was part of what I used to do when I ran charities because most work experience goes to the relatives of existing employees or clients, meaning young people without connections struggle to get it. It’s vital to get, because it gives you first understanding of the world of work, teaching you what to wear, how to interact with people, how an organisation fits together and giving you something you can put on your CV – as well as your first connections. It has almost disappeared as a result of the pandemic, so I’m leaning on the employers at Harwell and Milton Park, in particular. If your organisation can help, wherever it is, do please get in touch.
On 2 consecutive days we had debates that allowed me to raise some of the constituent issues I am most often contacted about. First, we had the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which contains the Government’s planning reforms. I am very pleased the Government has listened to those of who raised objections to the zonal system that was being suggested. It is also going to put more weight on local plans and not require a 5-year land supply if your local plan is up to date – welcome news for us.
The planning process will be fully digitalised, and I asked again for hybrid meetings to be permitted (as well as measures to ensure the digitally excluded can still participate). I banged the drum again for my campaign for new houses to be built to the latest environmental standard, not the one when they got planning permission, which is often several years earlier. I also stressed there is still an issue with housing targets. South and Vale have typically exceeded their targets, but we continue to have an issue with the city of Oxford demanding the highest number of houses then hardly building any of them, meaning the burden falls on the rest of the county.
And, of course, I raised lack of infrastructure, which I did again the following day in a debate about Ofwat. The Government has just set new priorities for Ofwat, and I used a debate on these to talk about the sewage releases in Oxfordshire waters, the poor water infrastructure that often accompanies new homes and the objections to the reservoir proposal. You can find both speeches on my website/Facebook pages.
I had a great 4 days of Platinum Jubilee celebrations including in Didcot, Faringdon, Wantage, Grove, West Hanney, Harwell and Wallingford. Along the way there was lots of food, plenty of games, Vikings, morris dancers, animals and an impressive array of classic cars – well done to everyone involved. God save our wonderful Queen.

From your local MP – David Johnston

I recently passed over 25,000 constituent cases dealt with since I was elected in December 2019 (to those who don’t like it when they don’t get a fast reply, I hope this helps you understand why!). One of the first things to strike me when I became an MP was how the correspondence you get is so different to that in almost any other job, in a good way. Many MPs are councillors before they enter parliament, but even then, my ex-councillor colleagues might have represented 10,000 people at county or equivalent level and typically had a narrow range of topics they were contacted about. MPs represent tens of thousands – Wantage and Didcot is one of the largest constituencies at near 100,000 – and are written to about every issue under the sun; during the pandemic, veteran MPs said the rate of correspondence we received was 3 times the level they’d ever seen. But the more people who contact me with problems the better, as being able to help them is the most rewarding part of the job.

Alongside individual cases I’ve been supporting 4 campaigns recently. One is continuing to help the local AEAT Pensioners obtain redress and I am pursuing something that I hope will give them an avenue for this. Another is to help Didcot resident, Sharon Gaffka, with her campaign on spiking. The Government recently moved the GHB drug – used in the majority of spiking cases – up a category so that the prison penalties for carrying it or producing it are increased. I took Sharon to meet the Safeguarding Minister so that she could explain what else she wants to see happen, including better education of young people.

I’m then supporting the Epilepsy Society’s Zach’s Law campaign to punish people who – believe it or not – send those with photosensitive epilepsy flashing images online in the hope that they will induce a seizure in the recipient. We’re hopeful the Online Harms Bill will clamp down on this. I was also pleased to join 70 colleagues in calling on companies not to digitally alter body proportions in pictures, which give people – particularly young people – an unrealistic body image to aspire to, with negative consequences for their mental health.

Visit highlights since I last wrote include Faringdon Junior School, where I took tough questions and learnt about dragons; the new Kingsgrove Cafe; the fabulous charity Mission Motorsport, which supports those affected by military operations over in East Challow; and being in Wallingford for the first day of Wallingford Radio’s FM license (tune in at 107.3FM!).

Don’t forget you can sign up to my Climate Summit on 27th June at www.david-johnston.org.uk.
As ever, if I can help with anything then do get in touch via david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

Parish Council Meeting Wednesday 11th May 2022

The next Council meeting will be convened in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 11th May 2022.

Here is the agenda and supporting documents.

From your local MP – David Johnston

Here is the latest Newsletter from your local MP

From your local MP – David Johnston

I am writing this at home, having caught Covid. I am pretty sure I had it right at the start of the pandemic, in early 2020, but it was before the testing regime we developed so I can’t know for sure. This time, I’ve definitely had the 2 lines, confirmed by a PCR. It isn’t pleasant but I’ve had all 3 jabs and so I mostly have symptoms of a head cold and fatigue.

I have a partner but being at home alone all day makes me think of 2 things: firstly, how hard it must be to be on your own all the time. If you can, please volunteer for organisations like the Didcot Good Neighbour Scheme, through which I see a widower each week. The second thing I’m reminded of is what a vital job all the various community groups did during the pandemic to support their neighbours.

You may or may not know that PMQs are predominately allocated by electronic ballot the week before they take place. Having been drawn for only 1 PMQ in my first 25 months, I was then drawn for a further 2 in just 3 weeks. The first I used to raise the lack of new GP surgeries we’ve had to support all the new houses that have been built. The second I used to raise the reservoir proposal, a shadow of uncertainty over the Steventon, Hanneys and Drayton area for over 2 decades now.

For all the yah boo politics PMQs has long been criticised for, it remains the best place to raise a local issue as it a rare occasion when the House of Commons is full, people outside parliament are watching on tv and it means the Prime Minister’s office swings into action to help deal with the issues you’re having.

It was very moving to be in the House of Commons for President Zelensky’s address to MPs, as it has been to watch him and the Ukrainian people resist the brutal invasion Putin has launched of their country, with support from the UK and its allies. I know people have been frustrated by the pace at which refugees are being brought to the UK and I agree the system did not move fast enough at the outset. It is now moving much faster, and we have several generous strands for entry. It is important that we know we can put in the right support the refugees that we take – we still have Afghans in hotels in Oxfordshire because we don’t have houses for them – and so we have to make sure we have the right health, education and pastoral support in place as soon as possible, which the Government is working hard on.

One final thing: Grove library is 50 years old this year and has a great collection of items from 1972 (or thereabouts) on display for a month!

As ever, if I can help with anything then do let me know via david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

Parish Council Meeting Wednesday 9th March 2022

The next Council meeting will be convened in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 9th March 2022.

Residents wishing to attend may wish to contact the Clerk in advance for details with respect to the latest COVID-19 recommendations.

Here is the agenda and supporting documents.

From your local MP – David Johnston

I took part in a productive meeting regarding the proposed Abingdon reservoir (which continues to be an odd name for it given where it is actually proposed to be located) with GARD and other local politicians. I know that not everyone who writes to me feels the same about the proposal, but it continues to be true that Thames Water have failed to adequately make the case for the reservoir, or to demonstrate they have properly considered alternatives or to show they have truly measured the environmental impact of it. I’ll be using my platform in Parliament to try and ensure we can get better answers to the questions local residents have.
I’d much prefer to spend all of my time on infrastructure that people actually want, like Grove Station and improved health facilities. I’m having discussions in Parliament about how to fix the fact that our population has fast outgrown our infrastructure, particularly our GP surgeries. This is a constituency-wide issue although it’s particularly frustrating to hear the long-overdue GP surgery on Great Western Park is still no further forward, despite assurances I’d be given by local health leaders at a meeting I chaired in September. It’s very difficult to understand what is so difficult to deliver this, as both council leaders and health leaders say they’re supportive and it was part of the original proposal for the development. It won’t solve the problem we have by itself but it is the minimum we need to ease a bit of the pressure in the Didcot area.
For what it’s worth I think we should be very proud of the role the UK has been playing in trying to support Ukraine in this period. No-one wants to see a war and if one happens it will be due to unprovoked aggression from Russia, rather than anything Ukraine has done. In addition to warning Putin of the consequences should he attack, we’ve been providing training and capacity-building through Operation Orbital which has helped to train over 20,000 Ukrainian personnel as well as provide anti-armour weaponry and encouraging other countries to take a more robust response. Having attended a session with the Ukrainian Ambassador in Parliament, I know our efforts are appreciated.
It’s not often one of our councils makes it into the national news and for Oxfordshire County Council, it’s unfortunately not for the right reasons! I have nothing against anyone deciding to choose veganism if that’s what they want to do, but eating vegan meals should be just that, a choice. It does not help the environment if we shun locally reared meat in favour of imported meat or imported avocados. We have many farmers in this constituency and across Oxfordshire who produce high-quality meat yet often struggle to make a living. I regularly visit farms and it is very hard work for small profits; they are frequently subject to theft and abuse/vandalism from animal rights activists. They deserve our support and I hope the Council will reconsider.
As ever, if I can help you with anything then do get in touch via david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

From your local MP – David Johnston

I held my debate on the role of developers, housebuilders and management companies at the beginning of January. You can watch it on my Facebook page, but I used as many constituency examples as I could of the low-quality of some homes; their environmental impact; the lack of affordable homes; the role of management companies, who charge large fees for very little work; and the overall broken process by which the houses come into being, including the failure to provide the infrastructure that is always promised.

My recommendations included ensuring a higher building standard for the homes; ‘use it or lose it’ planning permission; making builders build to the latest environmental standards, not the ones that existed when they got planning permission (often several years before); a tougher regime for management companies that prevents them hiking their fees and treating home-owners the way they do; and for the infrastructure to support new homes to go in first, as people no longer believe it will follow afterwards.

As I said, my campaigns for better infrastructure – including Grove Station to be reopened, improvements to the A420 and A34 and much better medical facilities for the constituency – are the least we should see given the number of houses we’ve had. There was quite a bit of cross-party support for what I said, and it is something I will return to regularly.

Making predictions about Covid is a mug’s game but, at the time of writing, we do seem in a much better place to what we were last year. I am glad that people could, in general, have a better Christmas and New Year than they did the year before. I am particularly pleased our schools have remained open for all children (most were open for at least vulnerable children throughout the pandemic) as it is the best place for them to learn.

Regular readers will know I am the lead parliamentary sponsor of the Local Electricity Bill, which would enable local communities to buy their energy from local, renewable sources. At the moment a community operation generating renewable energy would have to pay in the region of £1 million set-up costs to access the grid and agree to supply the whole country, rather than just, for example, their local village. This year, I’ll be chairing a new All Party Parliamentary Group of MPs and Lords to try and help push this forward.

I know many of you are continuing to have problems with your post. I am in regular contact with Royal Mail about this, which is something I held a debate on in Parliament in June 2021 and which I have raised multiple times. As ever, the Royal Mail staff are working hard but something is still not working correctly. I’ll continue to keep on the case of Royal Mail HQ.

As ever, if I can help with anything do get in touch via david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

From your local MP – David Johnston

I’m delighted to have secured a debate in Parliament on the role of developers, housebuilders and management companies. I could talk for hours and hours about the complaints I receive – to the games developers play to outfox the system, to the low-quality of homes that are built and how bad they often are for the environment, to the lack of affordable houses to the extortionate service charges people are paying for communal areas to be maintained. I’ll be covering all of this and more – get in touch if there is something in particular you think should be raised.
Following the success of my pre-COP26 summit for constituents in the summer, I’ve decided to make it an annual event. I’m very pleased that Alok Sharma, who remains President of COP for another year, has agreed to speak at it. I will share further details as and when they’re confirmed in the coming months.
I write this just after the House of Commons has had to vote on so-called Plan B regarding Coronavirus. I share the frustrations of those who don’t want to see restrictions re-introduced but I voted for the measures that were proposed as I believe they are proportionate and sensible. I will be as pleased as anyone if Omicron turns out to be much less of a concern that it is right now, but the Government is right not to take the risk.
The particular controversies were over what were described as ‘vaccine passports’ and the requirement for NHS workers to be vaccinated. Both are sensitive issues, but given you can show a negative lateral flow test (or exemption) instead of proof of vaccine, I do not believe what has been agreed can be described as a vaccine passport as commonly understood. And for decades there has been a requirement for NHS staff, depending on where they work, to have a number of vaccines including MMR, Influenza, BCG and Hepatitis B.
I am a patron of 3 of our local organisations – Play2Give, Secret Santa 365 and Team Mikayla – all of which were out in force over Christmas. I was pleased to deliver presents with the first 2 and visit the fantastic Christmas lights display (30,000+ lights!) of Team Mikayla. Those of you who are familiar with them will know what great work they do – those of you who are not should go and check them out!
Finally, I had another great Christmas Card competition with entries from primary school children right across the constituency. It is always a very tough decision, so I end up with several runners up. Congratulations to Ollie, age 4, from Hagbourne CofE school, who won; Nicholas from Fir Tree Junior School; Avril and Gil from Uffington CofE; and Myah who were runners up. Special mention to Millie from Charlton Primary School, who did a pretty good drawing of the PM!
Here’s to a better 2022 than 2020 or 2021. As ever, if I can help with anything do get in touch via david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

Parish Council Meeting Wednesday 12th Jan. 2022

The next Council meeting will be convened in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 12th January 2022.

Residents wishing to attend may wish to contact the Clerk in advance for details with respect to the latest COVID-19 recommendations.

Here is the agenda and supporting documents.