Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP

ed vaizey mp
LOCAL NEWS
Local Elections

The local elections last week saw the Conservatives lose our majority on both the Vale of White Horse District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.  I was very sad indeed to see so many hard working local councillors lose their seats, and new candidates who had been hoping to serve fail to achieve their goal.  Locally our councillors have been working hard and have good reason to be proud of what they have achieved whilst in the majority: free parking across town centres in the Vale, one of the highest recycling rates in the country, campaigning to improve local health facilities, improving access to public facilities, winning major support from central government for transport improvements and much more, all while keeping council tax down.
 
It is for these reasons, amongst others, that South Oxfordshire and the Vale have been consistently voted amongst the top places in the country to live. We really do have a lot to be proud of, and I would like to thank all our local politicians, from all parties, for the work they do to help achieve this. In particular I would like to thank those dedicated councillors who lost their seats at these elections, and I hope we see them return to local politics soon.  The newly elected councillors will face similar challenges to those they are replacing, and there are no easy answers.  We remain one of the most economically successful parts of the country, and that brings its own set of challenges, not least to build more homes for the people who wish to live and work here, and ensuring that there is infrastructure there to support them.  I have always worked with politicians of all parties to get the answers we need locally, and will continue to lobby central government for the support that we need.
 
Many councillors who lost their seats will rightly blame Westminster.  While local issues are very important, there is no doubt that voters use them to send a message to government.  This is a strongly Remain constituency, and there is a great deal of frustration that politicians in Westminster are still unable to find a way forward on Brexit.   I will be taking the message of frustration felt on the doorstep of the campaign and at the ballot box back to Westminster: it is wrong that local politicians who have worked tirelessly for their local communities should bear the brunt of a Westminster failure.

Natural England & General Licenses

In the last week of April Natural England revoked three general licences for controlling certain wild birds with three days notice. These licences (GL 04/05/06) cover 16 species of birds including several members of the crow family, Canada goose, some gulls and pigeons.

This follows a legal challenge to the way the licences have been issued, which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully.

The revocation has caused a great deal of upset amongst the farming and rural communities, who maintain that they are an essential tool to maintain crop health, livestock and to protect native species.

Natural England have now issued new individual licenses to cover most of the activities previously included under the general licenses, however given the interest in the issue the Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs took control of the licensing process over the weekend. They are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-control-certain-species

DEFRA are now managing a formal evidence gathering process, due to close on Monday 13th  May before releasing their guidance on the issue.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS & ORGANISATIONS
Movement for Good Awards
Ecclesiastical Insurance are inviting nominations and applications for their Movement for Good Awards, through which they are giving £1m to charities.

There are two categories: £1,000 awards are open to eligible charities registered in the UK and Republic of Ireland - these could range from smaller volunteer-run groups to larger, well-known organisations. £50,000 awards are open to eligible charities registered in the UK and Republic of Ireland with an income of less than £5m

Charities can be nominated for the £1,000 donations and apply for the £50,000 grants.

For more info visit: https://www.ecclesiastical.com/movement-for-good/

Action with Communities in Rural England - Village Hall Fund

The Autumn 2018 budget announced that, to mark the centenary of the Armistice, government would support several initiatives, including making available grant funding to support improvement projects for village halls.

The grant funding will be managed by ACRE on behalf of Defra with support from the ACRE Network. The grant aims to help fund the updating and refurbishment of village halls so that they are fit for purpose and provide activities which seek to achieve one or more of the following outcomes for their communities:

•Improved health and wellbeing/reduction in loneliness

•Demonstrates a positive impact on the environment

•Supports the local rural economy

For more info visit: http://acre.org.uk/our-work/village-hall-improvement-grant%20fund

IN PARLIAMENT
Visit from Fitzwaryn School
I was delighted to see Fitzwaryn School from the constituency at PMQs and have the opportunity to meet staff and pupils afterwards. Fitzwaryn School is an Outstanding school for SEN pupils in Oxfordshire and I asked Theresa May to support more high needs funding in rural areas.

CONSTITUENCY VISITS

I was delighted to welcome HRH The Duke of York to the constituency to open Wave Optics New HQ at Milton Park, Oxfordshire.

On other constituency visits I met GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood at Didcot Station, 6th Formers from Didcot with an interest in Politics, I attended a meeting of Didcot First at the New Marriott Courtyard hotel in Milton, I was interviewed by a local 6th form student as part of her International Baccalaureate project, and met with local residents and senior management of FirstPort at Alfredston Place in Wantage to discuss issues there.

THIS MONTH'S MAILBAG
This month I have received in excess of 950 items of correspondence (emails and letters) from constituents. Subjects raised with me include Brexit, Christophobia, School Funding, Pubs & Climate Change.


Some very good news – the Government have announced a £218million investment in roads and bridges for southern Oxfordshire.  This is not only great news for South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse but for the whole of Oxfordshire. This is a great example of how councils working together with MPs, local businesses, community groups and residents can submit a significant bid to the Government resulting in success.

 

A number of constituents have contacted me with their concerns about the proposed change in scanning services available at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. The service was previously provided by Oxford University Hospital Trust but it was recently announced that NHS England had accepted a tender from a private provider InHealth to run the services. Whilst in principle I do not oppose competitive tendering for medical services I am concerned about the handling of this tender process by NHS England. I wrote to NHS England to ask for an explanation and I am pleased the decision is now under review.  No changes will be made to the current PET-CT service at the Churchill while this process is ongoing.

 

In Parliament, Brexit continues to be the issue that dominates both the headlines and Parliamentary time. As I write this column some weeks in advance of its publication it is difficult to predict where we will be when you read this. I will continue to support the Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a workable withdrawal agreement and, if need be, vote to increase Parliamentary control of the process to avoid a no deal exit. I provide regular Brexit updates via email so please do contact my office if you would like to be added to that list.

 

In the constituency I have enjoyed visiting the Didcot Railway Centre for the unveiling of their new train (by none other than Prue Leith), Wallingford Museum, and the reopening of the recently renovated
The Extraordinary Hare Pub in West Hendred. I have also met with GPs in Didcot, taken a walking tour along the A420 to see first-hand residents’ concerns, and been campaigning alongside local colleagues for the Council elections.

This month I have met with Ministers in Westminster to discuss two important local issues: health care and rail links.

 

I met with Andrew Jones the Rail Minister, alongside his officials and Network Rail and Great Western. The Minister and I led discussions focussing on improvements along the Great Western Railway line, the potential for reopening Grove Station as part of a strategic project to develop commuter stations between Oxford and Bristol, and improved connectivity between Heathrow Airport and stations to the west, so one might travel direct to Heathrow from Reading for example rather than having to into London and then back out to Heathrow. I will be looking at the East West Rail scheme and the Cotswold Line Promotion Group for inspiration on how to build a business case for improvements to commuter services between Oxford and Bristol and hope that colleagues in Parliament with stations along that route might join me.

 

I also met with Health Minister Caroline Dinenage. Alongside colleagues from Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxford Health and Vale of White Horse District Council, the Minister and I led discussions on how we could improve primary care provision in the constituency. We discussed the ongoing situation in Wantage as well as our plans to develop new health hubs, both at an improved health centre in Wantage and plans for a new health hub in Didcot.

 

In the constituency I have met with a number of residents and local businesses this month, including meeting with GPs in Wantage, The Thames Valley Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, residents of Alfredston Place in Wantage who are receiving poor service from their managing agent, and a visit to the Environmental Education Centre in Sutton Courtenay hosted by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. I was also delighted to join local charity Mission Motorsport at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea to celebrate the launch of their new initiative Mission Automotive.

Highways England and the Secretary of State for Transport have been examining options for the location of the new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, and have narrowed it down to one broad corridor. Within this, there are up to one hundred specific routes the road could take. Highways England will be engaging with communities and local organisations along the corridor throughout 2019 and 2020 before announcing their preferred route in Autumn 2020.

 

There is also an opportunity here to include the A420 in the plans, which would take the route to the West of Oxford and add connectivity to Swindon, a considerable bonus. I also hope that this road can help relieve pressure on the A34, which is not currently fit for purpose and badly needs better infrastructure to support it.
I’ve no doubt that like me many of you were shocked and surprised to see an article in the

 

6 February edition of the Herald titled ‘Oxfordshire physiotherapy private contract fiasco exposed in full.’ I have been trying for some time to lead efforts to coordinate between the different health care managers and providers, hosting roundtable meetings and leading discussions on how to move forward in providing the correct services that residents require. Therefore, I’ll continue to lobby hard locally and in Parliament for better healthcare. I am meeting Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care to discuss these important issues and will continue to engage locally as well.


Constituency Visits
It was a great pleasure to plant a tree as part of the Woodlands Trust Commonwealth Canopy Project at the Sylva Foundation and receive a tour of their fantastic establishment. I’ve also met recently with a delegation from local parish councils to discuss improvements to the A420 and attended a working session of 'Didcot First' at Milton Park to hear updates about the local economy, businesses and community actions.