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October’s Charney Chatter

Click the Pumpkins!

From your local MP – David Johnston

I am writing this after the first full week of parliament’s return, when all MPs have been present. While I had been going down to London Monday-Thursday once it was permitted again, some MPs have not been physically in the House of Commons for nearly 18 months. All of us who were attending physically had been subject to a socially distanced chamber with only a fraction of MPs allowed in and all committee meetings were on Zoom.

The place is now transformed, with much more atmosphere; proper debates where people can ‘intervene on’ (interrupt to politely make a counterpoint) each other; and I for one felt our first Education Committee meeting was much more focussed and better for being able to put ministers and their officials under scrutiny. Virtual parliament is better than no parliament, but a lot is lost.

With the exception of a few days in Yorkshire and a couple of days in Norfolk, I spent most of recess at home in Didcot. There were some great events just before we returned. One was the Longworth Church Fete, which had a good turnout and good weather, a very competitive dog show and classics like a tombola and coconut shy. Another was a tea party at the Almshouse of Robert Stiles in Wantage, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Almshouse Association. Almshouses have existed in the UK for more than 1000 years and provide low-cost housing to the local community. They have something in common with fetes in that both are run by volunteers. And, as with the return of parliament, they give a taste of what’s been missed through Covid.

I know that the pressure on GP services continues to be a bugbear. Over the summer, I met with both the Wantage surgeries and chaired a larger meeting of the Didcot surgeries, Clinical Commissioning Group, Patient Participation Group reps and the District Council in Didcot. The long-overdue expansion of Mably Way in Wantage has just had a step forward after a meeting of the CCG: the business case has been approved and the planning application has been submitted. In Didcot, there is both the particular short-term need presented by the new houses at sites such as Great Western Park and a longer-term need given the expected population growth. In broad terms there’s agreement about what we need. My job is to do all I can to try and ensure we get it.

Other recent meetings of note were with some residents of Appleford and some residents of Sutton Courtenay. The Appleford meeting was specifically about the location of the relief road and the desire of the group to see it moved 200m to where Oxfordshire County Council were originally going to put it. I think there is a compelling case for this and have contacted the County Council with the points the group wanted raised. The Sutton Courtenay meeting was a broader one about the development that has taken place and promised improvements that have still not arrived – at my request, they’re giving me a task list of things they’d like me to do!

A final mention for a couple of charities. Adrian is an ambassador for the Stroke Association and runs a group in Grove. He can deliver free of charge presentations to groups of any age about the risk factors for having a stroke. The other is Root and Branch, near Shrivenham, which runs outdoor activities for those with mental health difficulties. I visited this month and they need volunteer blacksmiths/metal workers to help run classes for those that use the service. Do get in touch if you can help – or indeed, as ever, if you’d like to contact me about anything else: david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

Parish Council Meeting Wednesday 8th Sept. 2021

The next Council meeting will be convened in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 8th September 2021.

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.

Fete News in September’s Charney Chatter!

Fete News and Chatter

August’s Charney Chatter

It is here!

From your local MP – David Johnston

I held a very productive pre-COP26 summit for Wantage and Didcot constituents this month. We had a great range of speakers, including the CEO of the independent Climate Change Committee. Interesting fact: the UK is currently 20 years ahead of the global average for cutting emissions, as well as cutting them faster than the other G20 countries. It won’t surprise you that the way we build houses featured regularly.

I put the event on because tackling climate change is very important to me, very important to a significant number of constituents and we have a big opportunity to demonstrate leadership when the world’s leaders come to Glasgow for the actual UN summit in November. It was also a great chance to showcase good local organisations like Greencore Construction, Westmill Wind and Solar and the Earth Trust. I am sending a summary of the concerns and ideas raised at the event to Alok Sharma, President of COP26, and will let everyone know how he responds.

As you might have seen, I held my debate in parliament on Royal Mail’s performance recently, making clear again that I don’t blame their workers for the problems. The following day I visited the Didcot Delivery Office. It’s clear that Royal Mail HQ has taken the criticisms seriously and has worked to try and improve the service – many people have told me it has. But you should let me know if you continue to encounter problems.

My first ‘10 minute rule bill’ will be on behalf of the AEAT Pension Campaign. This constituency has more of the AEAT Pensioners than any other constituency and they were all encouraged – via assurances that turned out to be false – to transfer to a pension scheme that has meant their pensions are now worth considerably less than they should be. It is a tale that sounds familiar, but a unique case in that it was advice from the Government’s Actuary Department in the 1990s that was strengthened to encourage the transfer and, at the moment, the advice can’t be investigated as the Ombudsman in question doesn’t have the powers to do so. The Bill would enable the Ombudsman to investigate the advice given and was first introduced by Ed Vaizey not long before he stood down. It is a long and difficult route to pass a law this way, but I am full of admiration for the campaigners who have been dogged in seeking to right the wrong.

Recess is fast approaching. I will be back home in Didcot for most of it, albeit working, contrary to the suggestion MPs are on holiday! In addition to regular meetings, surgery appointments and visits, I’ll be holding some roundtables on issues constituents have raised repeatedly with me (including on GP appointments) and trying to attend as many of the events that couldn’t take place last year as I can – let me know if you think there is a good one for me to attend near you.

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

Parish Council Meeting Wednesday 21st July 2021

The next Council meeting will be convened in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 21st July.

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.

July’s Charney Chatter

is here!

From your local MP – David Johnston

If you are reading this before 1st July, there’s still time to sign up to my Zoom pre-COP26 summit via my website.

Significant change is being proposed for Oxfordshire by the independent Boundary Commission.  They say create a seventh seat in the county at Bicester; move the Faringdon, Kingston Bagpuize, Stanford and Watchfield & Shrivenham wards from the Wantage constituency into the Witney constituency; move the Marcham division from Wantage into Oxford West and Abingdon; and move the Sandford and the Wittenhams division from Henley into Wantage, which will get an official new name: Didcot and Wantage (I have continued my predecessor’s habit of including Didcot in the name but it isn’t official!).

The purpose is to give each MP roughly the same number of electors as, at the moment, constituencies in England range from 55,000 to 100,000 people. Wantage and Didcot is 91,000, so I knew they would propose a chunk being taken off somewhere; the proposal would make it 71,000. We’re strongly urged not to give an opinion as these are proposals subject to consultation, but you can give yours up until 2nd August on their website.

I have launched a new project with my colleague, Claire Coutinho, to research and propose practical recommendations to close what we’re calling the Opportunity Gap for young people from different backgrounds and areas of the country. We’ll look at everything from the resources parents have (financial and non-financial) through to the recruitment processes employers use, praising those doing good work to help and calling out those who could do more. Readers will know my pre-politics career was entirely spent working with disadvantaged young people and in the post-Covid world, it’s a topic that is more important than ever.

One of the most valuable things I think I can do in my job is raise issues that affect constituents in the House of Commons. Recently, I’ve been pleased to raise a series of concerning issues, including the case of a constituent who has been waiting 3 years for her rape case to reach court, and what looks to be a worrying rise in the prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs to dementia patients who don’t have a diagnosis of dementia. I also took the opportunity to raise the lack of GP services to serve our growing population – and am pleased the Health Minister has agreed to meet to discuss this further. On this topic, my debate on the performance of Royal Mail is this month and I will put my speech – and other local issues I raise in the meantime – on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/davidjohnston4wantage)

A few weeks ago I was delighted to become the first patron of the Childrey charity, Team Mikayla, set up by the inspiring 14 year old Mikayla, who has had a long and difficult fight against Cancer. I was delighted to subsequently hear they received a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, alongside other great local organisations such as the Ray Collins Charitable Trust in Wantage and Farcycles in Faringdon. In other good news, Anna Richards of Maymessy in West Challow received the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award too. Congratulations to them all.

As ever, if I can help do please email me at david.johnston.mp@parliament.uk

June’s Charney Chatter

…is here!