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John Howell MP Writes - February 2017

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A look back at recent key issues in Westminster and the Constituency

Sometimes it seems that the same items dominate our new reports on a regular basis. Behind the scenes much goes on which, although less sensational in news terms, is important in our everyday lives.

For example the state of our roads is an issue regularly raised with me and a source of frustration for motorists. Government has ring-fenced money for their repair in the past and has now announced a dedicated £1,315,000 pothole fund for 2017/18. It is part of a £1.2 billion fund for local roads that the Government is allocating to councils to repair and rebuild our transport links. The total allocation for Oxfordshire comes to£19,409,000. This builds on the 1,036,000 we got last year in Oxfordshire.  

The Prime Minister has also recently announced new measures to transform the way we approached and deal with mental health especially for children and young people where mental health problems are a growing concern. Each secondary school will be offered mental health first aid training to increase awareness around mental health and help to tackle the unacceptable stigma around the issue. To support this initiative, new proposals will outline how mental health services for schools, universities and families can be improved, so that everyone in the community is supported, at every stage of life.  There will also be an expert review into how we can improve mental wellbeing in the workplace. I very much welcome this as there has not been sufficient focus on mental healthcare in this country. For too long there has been a stigma around mental health issues that is not replicated in physical health leaving people to suffer in silence and often get worse.

Of course, health care generally has been very much in the news with pressures reported on the NHS as demand is unprecedented. In the time after Christmas some hospitals reported up to 30% increase on attendances at A&E compared to last year. A number of measures have been taken towards winter preparedness including an allocation of £400 million to local health systems and the largest ever winter flu vaccination programme. It is recognised that our healthcare professionals work hard and different action is being taken in different areas to locally manage specific concerns. Of course we can all help relieve the pressure by directing our own concerns to the appropriate resource and making greater use of our local pharmacists and NHS Direct.

Another hot topic is the growth in new housing. I have written about the changes to the planning system on several occasions and now would just like to report a new measure introduced by the Minister just before Christmas. He has set out another provision to strengthen those communities that have developed a Neighbourhood Plan. Where there is a Neighbourhood Plan there is only a need to demonstrate a 3 year land supply to be able to ward of aggressive development rather than a 5 year supply as prescribed in the National Planning Policy Framework. I appreciate that this may be complex but I am certain that for communities where this applies the implications will be clearly understood and welcomed.

If you would like to know more about my work you may like to be on the circulation list for my regular e-newsletter and special briefings sent on an occasional basis on specific issues. To be added to the list please email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information about my work both in Westminster and in the constituency please do visit my website which is regularly updated. The address is www.johnhowellmp.com. You can also follow me on twitter @johnhowellmp or on Facebook www.facebook.com/john.howellmp