A look back at recent key issues in Westminster and the Constituency
Christmas Wishes from John Howell MP
Firstly, as this newsletter will appear in December magazines I would like to take this opportunity to wish all constituents a peaceful Christmas and to send my best wishes for the year ahead.
The end of the year is often a time of reflection and planning. As I look back it has not been an easy year. There have been many challenges and some of these will continue forward into the coming year. We are in times of change and as such it can be unsettling. I welcome correspondence on issues of concern. Whether or not our views are shared it is good to know how others perceive situations and what issues are uppermost in people’s minds.
There is no doubt that some constituents face hard times but overall in this constituency we have many privileges much due to the work of many in our communities who give their time in many voluntary activities. May I take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who work hard in our communities to make them special for the rest of us. It is always a pleasure when I get the opportunity to visit community activities and I look forward to learning yet more about what is being done in 2017.
Writing in mid-November there are world issues at the forefront of media attention. Whilst some issues are conducted on the world stage the ongoing work of Parliament continues and the media will choose what it comments on. There is indeed much going on in Parliament and for those who are interested details of the work can be followed on the Parliament website where there is a specific section dedicated to what is going on. http://www.parliament.uk/business/
One piece of recent news that I know touched many people was on the dreadful accident on the A34 killing many in one family all because a lorry driver’s attention was diverted to his music selection on his phone. I recently joined with other local MPs to debate the concerns in Westminster Hall which is a way of getting the concerns widely aired. Following that we meet with Highways England and other stakeholders about safety on the A34.
Although many parts of the constituency are devoid of train services where there is access there have been concerns over services and timetabling. In both Henley to the south and Islip to the north of the constituency I have raised concerns from residents about the future of services. Network Rail has confirmed that there will be no threat of closure to the Henley Branch Line. I await a response to the Islip situation. Where buses are the main pubic transport there have been a number of concerns. In Parliament we have The Bus Services Bill progressing through the system which provide local authorities with the means to improve local bus services. It will make provision to strengthen arrangements for partnership working in the sector, introducing ‘enhanced partnerships’; to introduce new franchising powers with decision making at a local level and to provide for a step change in the information available to bus passengers. Although it takes time for a Bill to progress through Parliament with the appropriate and necessary scrutiny I believe that this signals a change in approach such as I have been calling for.
Another Bill of local importance going through Parliament at present is the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. This is important to a number of our communities either with adopted Plans or with Plan in preparation. The Bill will further reform the planning system to give greater support to Neighbourhood Plans and there are measures which if taken forward will help in this area with some of the key concerns in planning. As a keen advocate of Neighbourhood Planning I recent sought the Prime Minister’s support in a question at Prime Minister’s Question time. In response the PM confirmed that neighbourhood plans are a crucial part of the planning system. She added that this is how local people can have a real say over what is happening in their local area.
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