Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP

ed vaizey mp

Wantage Hospital 

wantage community hospitalLast month I spoke in Parliament alongside my fellow Oxfordshire MPs about the future of healthcare in the county. Wantage Hospital is currently in a state of limbo – Oxford Health announced in April 2016 that they would be closing the hospital due to concerns over legionella in the old pipe system. This decision is subject to a consultation by Oxfordshire CCG - a consultation which was previously promised in October 2016.

 

Phase one of the consultation did not take place until January 2017, three months after the full consultation was promised. As Wantage is a community hospital it is not covered by this phase. Phase 2 of the consultation has yet to take place, and no date has been announced for when it will begin. This leaves the hospital effectively closed with no end in sight.

After an online petition was signed by almost 4,000 people it was agreed to keep the hospital’s physiotherapy and maternity services open. However, Oxfordshire CCG re-tendered the hospital’s physiotherapy services and the contract passed to HealthShare. The company has since had to close all physiotherapy services provided in Wantage, leaving the hospital with just limited maternity care.

Whilst we all recognise the pressures on local health authorities, it is clear that the entire consultation process by Oxfordshire CCG has been completely unacceptable. We must have an open and transparent conversation about the services needed in our towns and communities and this should include full public and stakeholder engagement at every stage.


Didcot Garden Town funding

At the start of October, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced £2.5 million allocation funding for 9 garden towns across England. After a successful bid, I am delighted an additional £295,000 of capacity funding has been allocated to support the delivery of Didcot Garden Town in 2017/18.

This additional funding is specifically for ongoing work on place-making, community engagement and the development of an arts and culture strategy. The Government recognises the important contribution the project will have on its central ambition of delivering more homes and I am pleased by the support for Didcot’s ambitious, community-led plans for growth.

 

SUDEP Action update

Local epilepsy charity SUDEP Action – of which I am President – are developing a tiny wearable device which could in the future save the lives of hundreds of young people each year. The choker-style gadget, which is worn around the neck at night, alerts a nearby parent, partner or friend that their loved-one is suffering from a life-threatening event. This could include a pause in their breathing (apnoea) or a change in how their heart beats. 

By sending a wireless signal to an alarm, the carer has enough time to put the patient into the recovery position – which can be enough to kick-start breathing again - to administer CPR, or call for help. Two million euros have been granted from the European Research Council (ERC) to carry out research towards the creation of a wearable device and the charity hopes this will be available on the NHS to every young person that needs it within six years.

 

science vale ukBE in Science Vale advertising campaign
It was great to see that last month, for the very first time, a series of adverts were launched in select train stations around the South East and on social media to raise awareness of the Science Vale UK brand. The adverting campaign used the new “BE in Science Vale UK” strapline to promote the area and took the form of a series of different posters on platforms, within stations and in the case of Paddington on ticket gateways. In addition the region will be promoted online with the NEW Scientist magazine, a title read by many scientists in the region and across Europe.

Ultimately, the campaign aims to encourage business decision makers and workers to consider relocating their businesses and families to Science Vale. For further information on the campaign, do visit: www.sciencevale.com.

 

Stay Well Flu Campaign

Last month, Public Health England and NHS England launched their Stay Well This Wintercampaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.

If you’re in one of the groups who are particularly susceptible – such as pensioners and pregnant women – or the parent of a young child, go and speak to your GP or pharmacist as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of avoiding flu this year.

More people than ever before are eligible for that free vaccination this year, including more young children and everyone who works in care homes. To check if you or your loved ones are eligible, and for other tips on staying well this winter, head to: www.nhs.uk/staywell

 

Didcot Christmas Street Fair 

It’s almost that time of year! On Thursday 30th November, Didcot's 24th Christmas Street Fair will be celebrating everything 1960's. The Broadway will once again be closed to traffic from 3.30pm - 9.30pm, including the new bus route through Station Road. This is to allow the funfair and stalls to be set up and the event to be held in a traffic free environment.

There will be two stages - one in the Orchard Centre and one outside Boots providing entertainment from the 60's. A tribute band from Wallingford covering The Rolling Stones and The Who, An Elvis entertainer and The Lula Las will provide some great 60's rock n roll. The grand parade will start from the Civic Hall this year at 7pm with 60's iconic cars and vehicles, hippies, rock n rollers and annual favourites The Reading Scottish Pipe Band.

 

Constituent success!
A huge congratulations to constituent Daryl Head who was awarded the silver medal for car painting at the Skills Olympics in Abu Dhabi last month. Fantastic achievement and great to see Oxfordshire’s talented young adults gain recognition on the global stage.

 

ed vaizey oxfordshire fire & rescue wantage stationConstituency visits
In the constituency recently, I have had the pleasure of meeting Oxfordshire’s assistant chief fire officer and the brilliant team at Wantage Fire Station. At Wantage Independent Advice Centre, I saw first-hand the great work being done providing free legal and benefit advice to local people. I have also visited Oxford Optronix – a global pioneer in life science instruments based in Milton Park – and took part in a Social Saturday event at Style Acre’s Tea Room in Blewbury. I also caught up with the Governors at Faringdon Academy.  

 

This month’s mailbag

This month I have received 392 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included Universal Credit, academic freedom and refugees.

With regards to academic freedom, our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and it is vitally important that this right is preserved. I welcome that the Prime Minister has said our universities should not be just be places of learning, but should also be places where there can be open debate. Freedom of speech is vital in society, and in particular in higher education. It is essential for academic thinking to remain cutting-edge and for ideas to be explored and challenged. I am encouraged that procedures are in place to uphold this right. 

 

Wantage/Didcot Renaming

Last month the Herald published a small and innocuous article, with the heading “Response due on Wantage-Didcot name change plan”. The headline did not quite give the full detail and nor, more unfortunately, did the opening paragraph – “a response to an application to rename Wantage-Didcot is set to be published in the next three months”. Even more unfortunately, I was quoted in the article.

Taking the title and opening paragraph of this article alone, such a response would be entirely justified. The idea of renaming Wantage as Didcot, or indeed Didcot as Wantage, would be nonsensical, barmy and insane. However, I would like to reassure you all that such a change has never been considered. Didcot and Wantage are two entirely wonderful, but separate, towns with their own distinct identities - including names - and this will most certainly continue indefinitely.

What is being proposed, as the rest of the article makes clear, is changing the name of the Parliamentary constituency from ‘Wantage’ to ‘Didcot and Wantage’ as part of a UK-wide boundary review by the Boundary Commission for England. This review is examining the boundaries of existing constituencies and will make recommendations for any changes that might be needed to make sure constituencies comply with legal requirements.


Great Repeal Bill

I have been receiving a lot of correspondence recently on the EU Withdrawal Bill, otherwise known as the Great Repeal Bill.

While I support the Bill at second reading, it is on the basis that it is improved upon in the committee stage. There has been much discussion around the so-called ‘Henry VIII’ powers that will give ministers the power to change or update EU laws without putting changes before Parliament. On a practical level this measure is sensible, as putting every change before Parliament would be an impossible task due to the volume of legislation. However, I feel that the proposed powers go beyond what is reasonable for the Government to achieve its stated aims. To this end I have put my name to three amendments, all designed to ensure that the powers given to ministers are proportionate and strictly focused on achieving the policy objective.

 

Immunocore Visit
Last month it was a pleasure to meet the team at Immunocore, in Milton Park. Immunocore is one of the UK’s fastest growing life science companies and an industry leader in the research and development of cancer treatments using T-cell receptors.

I am immensely proud that our constituency homes some of the very best scientific researcher and engineers. As well as the brilliant organizations working collaboratively at Milton Park, we have over £1billion of world-leading research infrastructure at Harwell Campus - home to around 200 science and research organizations and 5000 of the UK’s most innovative minds.

Additionally, last month I also caught up with Sovereign – one of the main social housing providers in the constituency – and with Oxfordshire County Council to discuss a range of infrastructure projects.

 

Political Studies Association Video Competition

Are you or a family member an A-level student interested in politics? The Political Studies Association are asking students aged 16+ to enter their video competition on the subject "Fake news: Is this the end of facts?" Groups of students are invited to submit short videos on this subject, examining what fake news is, what effect it may be having on the political landscape and what it means for expert opinion and ‘factual’ knowledge.  

The PSA exists to develop and promote the study of politics and it has never been more important to engage young people with politics and citizenship. This competition is a unique opportunity for A-level students to add their voice to an important discussion and more details can be found here: www.psa.ac.uk


Countryside Alliance Awards

Nominations are now open for the Countryside Alliance Awards – nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’. They celebrate people going the extra mile to ensure that rural Britain’s food and farming industry, small businesses, traditional skills and forward-thinking enterprises can flourish. Our constituency is home to a whole host of brilliant community champions, so please get involved and nominate at the following address: /www.countryside-alliance.org

This month’s mailbag

This month I have received 485 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included Brexit, Universal Credit and energy bills.

With regards to Universal Credit, this is a major reform that will transform the welfare state in Britain. At the heart of Universal Credit is a belief that work should always pay. Under the new system, benefit will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up. 
Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of Universal Credit started in April 2013 and I am pleased that significant progress has been made to date. Universal Credit is now available for single claimants in every jobcentre in the country.


Housing cash injection

I am delighted that Housing Minister Alok Sharma has announced a £6.2 million government cash award for South Oxfordshire District Council. This will accelerate delivery of Didcot’s much needed Northern Perimeter Road, a vital piece of local infrastructure and key to the success of Didcot Garden Town. The infrastructure investment promises to boost economic growth across the Science Vale and enterprise zone, increasing employment by 20,000 over the next 20 years.
Didcot Garden Town’s delivery plan sets out a vision for the development of high quality housing and the transformation of the local area. Good design is at the heart of the plan, prioritising high quality public and green spaces. In keeping with its location at the heart of Oxfordshire’s Science Vale, cutting-edge technology will underpin and enable development.
 
Rural broadband
I am pleased that the ‘Better Broadband for Oxfordshire’ programme is on course to achieve above 95 per cent coverage across Oxfordshire. This places the county in the top quartile of counties in the UK. Since its launch, this £38 million collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council, Government, BT and local councils has provided 72,309 homes and businesses with access to broadband with a speed of over 24Mbps. Some 488 new fibre broadband cabinets have been installed and a total of 460km of fibre laid.
In June there was an additional £4 million boost to the programme. This will provide an additional 3,000 of the most remote households and businesses with access to super-fast broadband. In addition to the £4 million, a separate fund of up to £600,000 from programme efficiency savings has been set aside for co-funding projects where communities are willing to share the costs of the installation work. Under the scheme, the council will contribute up to £1,700 per premise.
 
HLF funding for WWI projects
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) helps people across the UK to explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.  In Wantage alone, more than £6.7 million of National Lottery money has been invested in over 65 local heritage projects since 1994.
 HLF is now encouraging people in Oxfordshire to apply for grants between £3,000 and £10,000 to undertake projects exploring the impact and legacy of the First World War beyond 1918.
 Just like many towns and cities across the UK, the area we live in today was shaped by the First World War. For instance, as I am sure many of you will be aware, the army’s Central Ordnance Depot was built on the site of what is now Milton Park. During the war, some seven million rounds of ammunition were sent to the Western Front from Didcot.
I strongly encourage local people to make use of the money available from HLF to explore its legacy further. More info can be found at: www.hlf.org.uk/firstworldwar
 
Oxfordshire LEADER programme
As you may have read in local newspapers, £100,000 has been made available through the Oxfordshire LEADER programme. Farmers, foresters, businesses and community groups, in rural parts of the county, can apply for projects up to £100,000 that support their local community. In exceptional circumstances, they may qualify for even more financial support.  
 Applications are open until March 2019. For more information on the programme please email Sophie Milton (oxfordshire.leader@southandvale.gov.uk) or phone 01235 422245.
 
Business and Community Awards (BACAs) nominations
Do you know a business, charity or community group that deserves some recognition for all they do in your local area?  

Didcot First, has launched their annual Business and Community Awards (BACAs) and would like you to nominate an organisation for all the excellent work they do. The awards are open to businesses, charities and community groups based in Culham Science Park, Harwell Campus, Milton Park as well as villages that surround the Didcot area.
 To find out the areas the awards cover and to make your nominations by 30 September, please visit: www.didcotfirst.org.uk

 

Constituency visits
In the constituency  recently, I have met with GARD a local pressure group campaigning against the proposed reservoir at Steventon.  I have also met with SUDEP, a local charity of which I am President, which campaigns to prevent sudden deaths in epilepsy.  I have also met local GPs at their surgeries, including Wantage, Shrivenham and Faringdon, to discuss their concerns.

 

This month’s mailbag
This month I have received 185 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included the Brexit, factory farming and the protection of pubs.
With regards to the protection of pubs, through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. I am glad that there are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value. 
Many pubs have also benefited from the Government's package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget also provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 - 90 per cent of pubs in England.


A34 Safety Review

Regarding the A34, as many of you will know, I initially brought the issue to Parliament by securing a Westminster Hall debate last October. This resulted in a commitment from the Roads Minister to commission a safety review. This was followed in November by the Chancellor confirming £50 million for the area as part of the 2015-20 Road Investment Strategy.

Highways England presented a first draft of the safety review in April this year. While statistically this proved that the A34 was no more dangerous than other roads, it did acknowledge the particular issues on the stretch by East Ilsley. It also recognised the huge economic impact caused by hold ups and collisions, given the increasing importance of the road as a major north-south transport link.

Addtionally, last week Communities Secretary Sajid Javid pledged more than £9 million of Government funding to a major upgrade to the A34. Two new south-facing slip roads at the Lodge Hill Interchange will help end years of congestion and pave the way for up to 1,700 new homes in Abingdon.

Oxfordshire MPs will now meet with Highways England in the coming weeks on completion of the safety review and I look forward to working with stakeholders to implement the results.

 

Euratom
This month, I began a campaign to urge the government to retain our membership of Euratom after we leave the European Union. Euratom is a sixty year old treaty that allows the UK to trade freely with its European partners in the nuclear industry. It’s vital for our local area, as hundreds of millions of pounds, and many thousands of jobs, are centred around Culham, the home of nuclear fusion research.

Since the start of the campaign, this issue has grown in prominence. I am pleased that the case for remaining in Euratom is increasingly gaining support from across parties and from prominent voices outside of Westminster too. Retaining membership will best serve the national interest – as has been unequivocally stated by representatives of the UK nuclear industry – and I hope that ministers are listening to the genuine concerns being raised.

LGBT Bullying
This month, Oxfordshire County Council placed third in the country for tackling anti-LGBT bullying in schools in Stonewall’s ‘Education Equality Index 2017’. The council has developed nationally recognised strategies to tackle anti-LGBT bullying and has a huge array of online resources and guidance for schools and young people. Stonewall – Britain’s foremost lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity – paid tribute to the progress made in our local area and I am proud that our schools are at the forefront of addressing this issue.

Adult Social Care
Figures released this month have shown that adult social care services on Oxfordshire are outperforming the national average. Of the 231 care service providers in the county, 84 per cent have been rated as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) compared to 76 per cent across the country. Previously under-performing homes are improving also and these statistics show that, across the board, older people and those with learning disabilities are receiving a higher than average level of care in our local area.

Smart Transport
It is great to see that a number of ‘smart transport’ initiatives in the county have been progressing recently. One such example, the DRIVEN consortium, has been awarded £8.6 million by Innovate UK, with £450,000 of this money especially for Oxfordshire. The project will see a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles deployed in urban areas and on motorways, with an aim of an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford by the end of 2019. Oxfordshire has long been at the forefront of a number of technological areas – for instance the nuclear research centre at Culham - and this is will prove a positive step towards becoming leaders in another future industry.

Community Grants
Commencing next month, Vale of White Horse District Council will be offering two grant schemes worth a total of £175,000 to support the local community. The Capital Grants scheme and New Homes Bonus community grant scheme opens on 20 August and will run until 15 October for people to apply. Workshops to give guidance on the grants and help people to apply for them will be offered 4-6pm on 8 August in Abingdon, 10 August in Faringdon and 15 August in Wantage. You can book a place on an advice session by calling the district council on 01235 422644 or by emailing grants@southandvale.gov.uk.

This Month’s Mailbag
This month I have received 355 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included the public sector pay cap, fire safety and the environment after Brexit.

With regards to the environment, the Government is committed to being the UK’s greenest ever. Carbon emissions have fallen by 6 percent since 2010 contributing to a 27 per cent reduction since 1990. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.

EU environmental regulation will remain in place until the UK formally leaves the EU. The Government will work with our EU neighbours, environmental organisations and the public to develop the new arrangements. The Secretary of State will shortly launch a consultation that will give environmentalists and others the chance to share their views and ambitions for the future.


Monthly Newsletter

I would like to start this month with a huge thank you to my constituents for re-electing me as MP for Wantage and Didcot with an increased vote share and a record number of votes. It has been a great honour to represent you over the past 12 years and I am relishing the opportunity to continue working hard to hear, voice and address your concerns over the course of the next Parliament.

Congratulations to Layla Moran, the new MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, who I look forward to working with on county issues. She replaces my friend the brilliant Nicola Blackwood – a great Parliamentarian, a tireless campaigner, a tremendous minister - her presence will be missed both in Oxfordshire and Westminster.

Parliament diversity and turnout
Figures indicate that the turnout of young voters has increased dramatically compared to the last General Election. This is excellent for political engagement as a whole and reaffirms the need to increase the government’s focus on the issues most affecting young people.

Further, this new Parliament is the most diverse to date. The total number of female MPs has jumped to a record 208 – up from 191 elected in the 2015 General Election. There has also been an increase in LGBT, ethnic minority, disabled and state-educated MPs. This reflects a considerable change in the landscape of British politics and is a welcome step towards truly representing the nation as a whole.
Fire Safety
Following the recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I convened a group of Oxfordshire MPs to meet with Simon Furlong, Oxfordshire's Chief Fire Officer. You can watch Simon's statement here .

I appreciate that many of you will be concerned about this issue – particularly those living in high-rise accommodation. Oxfordshire has five tower blocks, all of which have been inspected by the Fire and Rescue Service, which has also issued the following safety tips and advice here.

I must also remind you that the fire service offers free ‘Safe and Well Visits’, where firefighters visit your home and see what they can do to help you reduce the risk of fire. More information can be found here.

Steventon Bridge
With regards to the proposed closure of Steventon Bridge, I have met with Network Rail numerous times to discuss the potential disruption this will cause. I have examined, with them, in great detail the alternative options - such as lowering the track to allow the power lines to pass under the existing bridge or building a new bridge parallel to the existing one.  At present, Network Rail believe there is no alternative to replacing the bridge. 
 
If the bridge does close, I would want to see disruption kept to a minimum, and the closure to be as short as possible.  To this end, I have met English Heritage, Virgin Media, BT, Thames Water and Scottish and Southern, all with a view to ensuring that utilities providers are ready to go if the bridge is closed (restoring utilities is often one of the reasons these projects take so long).  I have of course worked closely with the County Council, who own the bridge and are responsible for the Highways.
Didcot Garden Town
I am pleased that the first steps towards the future of Didcot as a ‘garden town’ are officially underway as a proposed delivery plan has been released. You can download a copy of the full proposed delivery plan and find details of venues providing paper copies here.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are also seeking your views on the proposals. Feedback will be used by officers to finalise the plan, including amendments where fit. Responses to this consultation can be submitted until midnight 31 July 2017 here.

DUP Coalition
Many of you have written this month regarding the DUP and I obviously take your concerns very seriously.  At the time of writing, the Conservative Party has finalised a confidence and supply deal with the DUP and the Prime Minister will form a Government in the national interest. While I do not share their views on social issues, it has to be said that they have supported some of our legislation in the past. I also note that the Labour party tried to reach an agreement with them after both the 2010 and 2015 election.

I would not support any agreement that meant going back on any of the pieces of social legislation I have voted for in the past, such as equal marriage, or other relevant pieces of legislation, such as abortion. While I do not have a problem with the DUP supporting any future Budget, as your Member of Parliament I will continue to promote and champion the equal rights that we believe in.

This Month’s Mailbag
Since the General Election, I have received 270 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included fire safety, the DUP and animal cruelty sentencing.
 
With regards to animal cruelty sentencing, I am pleased that we have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in regular contact with the Ministry of Justice in relation to sentencing policy for animal welfare offences, but I would note that current sentencing practice does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate.


Monthly Newsletter

Westminster Attacks
tribute on westminster bridgeIn March an incident took place in Westminster that we all hoped would never happen. An act of vicious terrorism by a deranged individual attempted to impede our democracy and sadly led to the loss of multiple lives and injuries to many more. My sincerest condolences go out to each of the victims and their families. My team and I also offer our deepest gratitude to the police officers and security teams who keep us safe in Parliament on a daily basis. Their bravery and professionalism must never be taken for granted. PC Keith Palmer lost his life protecting MPs and their staff and his actions will never be forgotten.

 

Triggering of Article 50
delivering article 50 This week saw the Government invoke Article 50 and formally begin the UK’s process of withdrawing from the European Union. Over the next two years, the Government will now be tasked with negotiating a positive new partnership with the EU’s remaining member states. The Prime Minister has made clear that she will attempt to deliver an outcome that works in the interests of the whole of the UK and will not ignore those who voted to ‘Remain’. MPs will be able to debate, scrutinise and vote on important negotiating decisions and I will make sure that the voices of the constituency are heard throughout.

 

“Magic Town”
magic townIn the 1940s film “Magic Town”, the owner of a company which performs consumer surveys lacks the funds to compete with its larger rivals in the field. Instead, he comes across a small town which he believes is perfectly representative of the nation’s views and uses it to conduct his research. This month, the team at ASI Data Science used modern data science methods to establish an English “Magic Town” - an area that is most representative of the whole country. Their verdict? Our very own Didcot! Of course, we have always known that Didcot is indeed a “Magic Town”, but it is great to see it finally get the official recognition it deserves!

Strategic Cycle Network for Oxfordshire
This month, the Oxfordshire Cycling Network has launched its vision of a future Strategic Cycle Network for Oxfordshire - a county-wide ‘all ages, all abilities’ cycle network linking major towns, workplaces and transport hubs with safe, direct and attractive routes. The 366-mile network could cost £120m and take 15 to 20 years to build, but it would bring transport and health benefits of worth at least 7 times that in the 20 year period alone. More information can be found here.

New £1 Coin
A new, highly secure, 12-sided £1 coin has now entered into circulation to replace the current coin which was introduced over thirty years ago. This coin has, more recently, become vulnerable to sophisticated counterfeiters at a major cost to businesses and taxpayers. Research suggests that there are over £400 million worth of £1 coins sitting unused in peoples’ homes across the UK. The existing coin will lose its legal tender status on 15 October 2017 so get digging down the sides of those sofas!

This Month’s Mailbag
This month I have received 699 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included Article 50, the refugee crisis and the protection of ancient woodland.

With regards to protecting veteran trees, the recent Housing White Paper proposed upgrading their protection to the same level as the green belt. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and there is a pledge to plant a further 11 million in this one – a rate of expansion not seen since the fourteenth century. Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats and I fully support this objective.

 


Final Spring Budget

March saw the final Spring Budget as the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a few months ago that future budgets will be delivered in the autumn.

 

Within the budget there were announcements to freeze fuel duty for the seventh successive year, an increase in the national living wage to £7.50, a rise in the personal allowance to £11,500, £2 billion more for social care over the next three years, and £100 million for A&E departments to help them better manage demand ahead of the next winter.

 

I was especially pleased to see that the Chancellor announced an extra £270 million for Research and Development, which is an important boost to our local and national economy. The Chancellor also announced new T-levels for 16-19-year-old technical students from autumn 2019, an area of education that our constituency is leading in. £200 million was also announced to further support the roll out of broadband, along with £16 million for a national 5G Innovation Network to trial the new technology.

 


Second Public Meeting on Brexit

The beginning of last month saw my second public meeting on Brexit, in Didcot. I was pleased with the number of people who attended and a good discussion was had. The views that were expressed will feed into my thoughts and what I raise with Government Ministers after Article 50 is invoked and we begin the process of withdrawing from the EU.

As well as my public meetings I also contributed to the third reading of the Parliament Bill to give the Government authorisation to invoke Article 50, which you can read here.

 

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
The award, dubbed the “MBE for voluntary groups”, is currently open for nominations. The Queens Award for Voluntary Service is awarded annually, and currently there is a maximum of 200 awards per year. Any member of the public can nominate a group of volunteers for the award by completing the online form here.

Apprenticeship Levy Survey
I have been contacted by a local company who is running a survey on the Apprenticeship Levy that will come into effect on 6th April. The idea of this survey is to further understand how it will affect firms in Oxfordshire, what employers need, and crucially what it might mean for apprenticeship growth. You can undertake the survey here, which closes on 6th March.

Local Pub achieves Top 10 ranking in 100 Best Companies to Work for 2017
Congratulations to Oakman Inns and Restaurants, operators of the Old Post Office in Wallingford, as their exceptional staff policies and human resources record got them to the eight position in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies Awards 2017. The list of other winners is here.

 

In the News
Speaking on the decision to leave Euratom during the debate on invoking Article 50, here.
Pledging my support for a new campaign to raise awareness and funding for primary bone cancer, here.
Meeting students from Didcot Sixth Form College, here.
Being praised for my sideburns, here.

This Month’s Mailbag
This month I have received 423 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included the future of adult social care, compulsory sex education, and issues coming up in the coming budget such as beer duty and fuel duty.

With regard to fuel duty, I know that this is an issue of great concern to my constituents, and that fuel duty remains a significant part of business and household costs. During the Autumn Statement in November the Chancellor announced that fuel duty would remain frozen for a seventh year, which saves the average driver £130 a year. I am looking forward to further announcements in this area in the budget.


Local News from Ed Vaizey MP

20th January saw my first public meeting to discuss Brexit. This one was held at The Beacon in Wantage. The meeting proved to be a lively discussion, with representatives on both sides of the debate airing their opinions.

There will be a second public meeting on Brexit on Friday 3rd February from 19:00 to 21:00, held at Didcot Civic Hall. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

 


NHS Fertility Services Debate
This month I hosted a cross-party debate on decommissioning of NHS fertility services alongside Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake and Labour MP Stephen McCabe. Following the debate, the Minister for Public Health, Nicola Blackwood, stated that she would tell NHS England that the Government expects all clinical commissioning groups to provide the recommended three cycles of treatment. The debate can be read here, and watched here.

 

Rail Improvements Meeting

This week I organised a meeting for a consortium of MP’s, high level Local Authority officers and Local Enterprise Partnerships from Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Swindon.

The new rail link between Cambridge and Oxford will provide a vital economic corridor between two of the most vibrant parts of Britain and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss proposals to extend that link through Wantage/Grove, Swindon and Wiltshire, to provide vital connectivity between Bristol, Swindon and Oxford.

Pushing the Clinical Commissioning Group for Action

Earlier this month I met with the CEO of Oxfordshire CCG, David Smith, to seek clarity on the priorities of the Oxfordshire Healthcare Transformation Consultation and its implications for residents of my constituency. The first phase of the consultation opened this month, and is due to conclude in April, and you can take part here.

I intend to have regular meetings with both the CCG and Oxford Health to keep on top of these consultations and would urge everyone to take part. I also raised the issue of capital funding for the expansion of GP’s surgeries in both Wantage and Faringdon, and offered to help lobby the Department of Health and the NHS during the next round of bidding.

 

Wantage, Grove and District Health Survey
Wantage Town Council has set up a Health Survey to further understand what the community wants and needs. You can undertake this survey here, and it will be open until 17th February 2017.

 

Half Term Activities at the Vale and Downland Museum

On Tuesday 14th February 2017 the Vale and Downland Museum in Wantage will be running a whole day of half term activities for all the family focused around the Stone Age.

 

In the News
In my Herald column I discussed the challenges facing our local health services, here.
Receiving assurances from the Chancellor that funds to improve the A34 have been allocated, here.
Fighting for better IVF services in the constituency, here.
Pledging to help Wantage Health Centre get expansion funding, here.
Writing about the challenges facing the advertising industry during Brexit, here.

 

This Month’s Mailbag
This month I have received 452 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me included Donald Trump, Article 50, withdrawal from Euratom.

With regard to the proposed withdrawal from Euratom, Nuclear research is important not just to the future energy needs of the country, but nuclear research also provides vital jobs in my constituency – and in many cases are supported by direct funding from Euratom. The Government maintains that it has to withdraw from Euratom because it is an EU institution. I regret this, though I take some comfort in the fact that the Government has indicated that it intends to seek a deal whereby the UK can continue to participate in European projects that support civil nuclear energy.

I have raised this issue with Ministers, and am seeking a meeting to discuss this matter further and ensure that the vital work at Culham continues.

2017 has arrived with quite a full in-tray for me as your local MP

As this is my first Parish News of the New Year, may I wish you Happy New Year and hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and got to spend time with your families and loved ones.
 
2017 has arrived with quite a full in-tray for me as your local MP. Issues such as the congestion on the A34, the continued campaign to re-open Grove station, my campaign to secure better fertility treatment for people in Oxfordshire, and the need to secure continued investment in science and technology post-Brexit will take centre stage. The early months of this year will see us take the formal step to begin leaving the European Union, an issue that will dominate the agenda in the House of Commons.
 
One of the issues I am most contacted about is local health services, and I share many of the concerns my constituents have raised about the ongoing review, known as the Sustainability and Transformation Plan. I am very unhappy with how the process is being undertaken, and the constant delays to publishing anything meaningful is having a severe impact on local services. Prior to Christmas two GP practices failed in a bid to secure funding to expand their premises to cater for growing populations.
 
This situation is becoming very urgent, and I will be meeting local NHS chiefs early in the New Year to try and get from them a clear timeline for the STP, so that we can all have a say in how our health services are developed. I am also seeking meetings with health ministers to discuss the failed capital bids for GP surgeries so I can understand why they were turned down so we can have greater success in the future.
 
In January I will be also co-hosting a debate in Parliament on the provision of IVF treatment. This is an area that I have campaigned on for some time, and I am frequently contacted by constituents who are having difficulty funding fertility treatment. I fear that this area is seen as a treatment that local health services can easily cut and reduce. I will be making Ministers aware of my concerns, and hope they take some action to further protect this important service.
 
January also saw my first public meeting on Brexit, held at the Beacon in Wantage at 18:30 on Friday 20 January. I will be holding a second meeting from 19:00 on Friday 03 February at Didcot Civic Hall. I am looking forward to meeting many of you at these events and hearing your views on Brexit.
 
Please feel free to contact me if you have any pressing issues that you would like help with.  Either myself or one of my team will get back to you as soon as possible and do what we can to assist.

A quick reminder that I will be holding a public meeting this week to discuss Brexit.

It will be held between 18:30 and 20:30 on Friday 20th January at The Beacon in Wantage.

 

If you are not able to attend this meeting, there will be a second public meeting between 19:00 and 21:00 on Friday 3rd February at Didcot Civic Hall.

 

I would like to invite you to attend one, or both, of these meetings so I can hear your views on Brexit and answer any questions you may have.
I look forward to seeing you.