DevComms director Charles Bushe reports on what the region’s MPs have been up to over the last month.

The last month certainly provided value for money in terms of politics, pageantry and policy.

The largest set of local elections since 1973 (dubbed ‘super Thursday’) were followed by the Queen’s speech, at which the Government’s legislative programme for the upcoming year was announced.

But what has been keeping our Members of Parliament in the Thames Valley busy?

As keen readers of Spotlight on Westminster will know, rumours have abounded over the past few months about the safety, or otherwise, of Anneliese’s Dodds (Lab, Oxford East) position as Shadow Chancellor.

It therefore, came as no surprise when, in the aftermath of Labour’s loss in the Hartlepool by-election, it was announced that Anneliese Dodds would be shuffled out of the Shadow Cabinet and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Instead, she has now taken up the position of Labour Party chair, replacing Angela Rayner.

In Oxfordshire, MPs have been reacting to the news that the appeal by Great Wolf for their new resort in Bicester has been allowed.

Victoria Prentis (Con, Banbury) called it ‘deeply disappointing’ but said that ‘the fight is not over’.

Whilst noting that the plans lie outside of his constituency, John Howell (Con, Henley) said that he is ‘in full support’ of Victoria Prentis and that ‘we are both deciding what can be done next’.

Staying with John Howell, he provided a comment (in his capacity as Government Champion for Neighbourhood Planning) on the announcement that two new funding streams will be available for local planning authorities to support ‘greater uptake’ of neighbourhood planning.

He stated that neighbourhood planning ‘gives a stronger voice to communities’ and that he welcomes the Government’s commitment to ‘further strengthen neighbourhood planning’.

In Maidenhead, Theresa May (Con) unsurprisingly continued to criticise the Government’s proposed planning reforms, by saying that the Planning Bill will put the ‘wrong homes in the wrong places’ in her response to the Queen’s speech.

In High Wycombe, Conservative MP Steve Baker shared his ‘alarm’ at the news that Aviva has sold its Gomm Valley site in the town to an anonymous company.

Aviva had previously been working with Human Nature to develop a 1,000-home plan for the site which Mr Baker said was an ‘extremely environmentally sympathetic proposal’. He has committed to pay ‘the very closest interest’ to any future proposals.

And in other news…

  • Layla Moran (Lib Dem, Oxford West & Abingdon), met with Flooding Minister Rebecca Pow, other DEFRA officials and Environment Agency representatives to discuss flooding in her constituency.
  • David Johnston (Con, Wantage) reiterated in the Commons on April 29 that ‘number one’ on his list of priorities is to re-open Grove Train Station. Minister for Transport Andrew Stephenson said ‘decisions will be made by our expert panel’ and an announcement is expected in the summer.
  • In Witney and West Oxfordshire, Conservative MP Robert Courts opened Bewley Homes’ 50-home Marlborough Gardens development in North Leigh, saying that he is pleased to see ‘much-needed, quality new homes’ being built locally.
  • And in the Commons on May 19, Rob Butler (Con, Aylesbury) raised concerns about infrastructure in Aylesbury. He said the town has seen ‘unprecedented housing growth’ but that their infrastructure is at ‘breaking point’. He reiterated that an Aylesbury spur of East West Rail would help alleviate these problems.

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