title="Baldons Parish Council in Oxfordshire">

From Our MP, March 2021

John Howell MP writes...

March 2021

I hope that the hint of Spring and the progress that we are making nationally to emerge from the restrictions that the pandemic has forced upon us bring a note of optimism to many. I say that knowing the wide range of difficulties that the prolonged lockdown has brought for many people which we will need to work through together in the coming months and years.
It was a delight to see such positive reports from teachers and children as they returned to school. It was also moving to hear children say what they had missed and the hopes that they have on going back. Mindful of the mental health concerns that the pandemic has given rise to I was pleased at the recent announcement of £79 million to expand mental health services for children and young people. I know from many emails sent to me that young people across the age range have faced many difficulties in this time.
Last month I mentioned new legislation coming forward to help protect our communities from illegal encampments. This is a problem that has been prevalent in the last year. Mindful of concerns to cut crime and build safer communities. the Government has now laid the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill before Parliament. This Bill seeks to ensure that the police have the powers and tools they need to protect themselves and the public. It also looks to overhaul sentencing laws to ensure that there is better protection from serious sexual and violent offenders and also to place greater emphasis on rehabilitation for offenders to help them rebuild their lives and prevent reoffending. This Bill will now make its way through due process in the coming months.
I know that Climate Change is an issue dear to many hearts. Whilst there are many big things that Government can do and is doing, I have often said that there are also many things that we as individuals and households can do that will also make a significant difference. The recent Food Waste Action Week focussed on one such issue. This was led by the Waste and Resource Action Programme and supported by Defra. Some of the data produced to support this campaign is very revealing as indeed is the impact that we can make if we all try to reduce our waste - for example, the fact that around 20 million slices of bread are thrown away at home every day. It has been said that stopping this would do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.3 million trees! Such data certainly focuses our attention and, of course, reducing food waste also saves us money. For more information on this do go to the WRAP website.
Also on the subject of the environment there is also good news from the Department of Transport on the planned introduction of a new blend of petrol for cars and motor bikes to be available later this year which will help reduce harmful emissions. This is not to discourage the move towards electric vehicles but E10 fuel will mean greener fuel available to help reduce emissions from millions of vehicles already on our roads. When it is available it will be important to check compatibility with your own vehicle before use.  
Many of our communities have completed, or are working on, Neighbourhood Plans. I continue to lobby Government where there are concerns related to these. I know that there have been concerns over the work involved in producing a plan, especially in smaller communities. I was therefore pleased this month to see some new funding come forward to pilot a simpler approach. The aim of this pilot is to test a simpler approach which aims to overcome the perceived complexity of the process and lack of volunteer capacity that can often result in low uptake for producing a plan despite a strong appetite in the local community to shape their areas. I have written to both SODC and Cherwell DC to encourage them to consider taking part in the pilot.
I hope that Parliament will soon return to a more normal pattern of working but in the meantime the work continues albeit largely remotely. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with me, if possible, please email me at john.howell.mp@parliament.uk. If you cannot email you can write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1 0AA or PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD.
If you would like to receive my periodic electronic newsletters, and briefings on specific issues, please visit my website www.johnhowell.org.uk and subscribe at the link on the home page.