Many congratulations to Aimee Willgress, a year 4 pupil at St Philomena's Catholic Primary School, who designed the winning entry in my primary schools Christmas card competition this year. Aimee's wonderful drawing of the stable in Bethlehem is beautifully drawn and a lovely reminder of the Christmas story. Congratulations also go to the six runners up, whose entries were printed on the back of my card. There was a fantastic response to the competition this year and I would like to thank all the children who took part, as well as the teachers who encouraged them and submitted entries on their behalf. There is a wealth of artistic talent in Orpington!
Jo visited Blackbush and Twenty Acre Shaw Woods on Friday 5 December for a tour with Dr James Cooper and Claire Kerr of the Woodland Trust.
Blackbush and Twenty Acre Shaw Woods cover a total area of 68 acres and include areas of ancient woodland. This landscape was once frequented by Charles Darwin, who lived at Down House, and would have studied plants in these woods over a period of 40 years.
These special woods include carpets of bluebells in the spring; brilliant deadwood habitats; ancient trees; landscape views and rich flora in the open spaces, including at least four species of orchids.
Jo says: 'It was great to see this beautiful "4-hug" beech tree in Blackbush and Twenty Acre Shaw Woods. The Woodland Trust does a magnificent job maintaining this ancient woodland so that its venerable trees can be enjoyed by future generations. A superb outing for young and old in the flora-rich woods that Charles Darwin studied in the 1840s.'
Photograph shows Jo Johnson MP with Claire Kerr, south-east Regional Manager of the Woodland Trust.
On Saturday 29 November, Jo joined Petts Wood residents at the Petts Wood Christmas Carnival. The Carnival has become a fantastic local tradition and this year the bar was raised higher than ever. There were four stages – performances from bands in the car park of the Daylight Inn; dance groups at the Petts Wood Memorial Hall; choirs on the pavement at Chatsworth Parade; and Mark Kirby was performing live outside Websters.
Christmas stalls in the Memorial Hall and a fun fair taking place throughout Petts Wood completed the scene. Jo switched on the Christmas lights following a performance from Glamstar and then enjoyed a performance by a group from the MPA Academy. A firework display followed the switch-on of the lights and Petts Wood could be left in no doubt that Christmas had arrived.
Jo Johnson MP said: 'It was an honour to switch on the Christmas lights this year at what has become a terrific annual event in Petts Wood. My sincere thanks go to all the organisers of the Carnival, who worked so hard to make this such a successful day.'
Photograph shows Jo with performers from MPA Academy, who helped Jo switch on the lights in Petts Wood.
Jo Johnson MP supports Bromley's first Business Improvement District (BID), Orpington 1st, by attending the BID's official opening of its Enterprise Hub in Orpington.
Offices on Orpington High Street have been acquired by Orpington 1st in order to provide an excellent space in which current businesses and those looking to start their own businesses can find affordable office space – available to rent for hourly, daily or weekly use.
Entrepreneurs can also make great use of the facilities provided by the Enterprise Hub, which include a board room that can seat up to 16, an interview room and a training room.
In addition, a new office for the local policing team, in which they can take their breaks, means that local police can stay closer to the High Street instead of returning to the St Mary Cray Station.
Jo Johnson MP said: 'This is a fantastic accomplishment by Orpington 1st, which has created a terrific asset for the whole of the business community. It is exactly the support that businesses and entrepreneurs require in order to create local jobs and to encourage economic growth.'
Photograph shows Martin Price, Chairman of Orpington 1st and manager of the Walnuts Shopping Centre, Jo Johnson MP, and Councillor Julian Benington, Mayor of Bromley.
Jo Johnson MP recently met with Tim Smart, Chief Executive of King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, for a tour of phase one of King's £3.9 million development at Orpington Hospital.
The elective orthopaedic centre is now up and running, including three new theatres and two new wards. Between 12-14 elective hip, knee or elbow operations are taking place at the centre every day.
Mr Smart and Jo also discussed Orpington Hospital's campaign to ensure top-class health services for the future by focusing on the recruitment of 60 new nurses.
Jo Johnson MP said: 'It was terrific to meet again with Tim Smart and to see the changes which have been made at Orpington Hospital. The hospital is thriving under King's management and is busier than ever. This new elective orthopaedic centre offers a fantastic facility for patients and I am delighted that King's continues to focus such positive attention on Orpington Hospital.'
Photograph shows Sally Lingard of King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Jo Johnson MP at the hydrotherapy pool at Orpington Hospital
Jo Johnson MP recently welcomed the opening of a New Red Cross shop on Orpington High Street.
The charity, which funds life-saving work across the world and in the UK, will serve the whole of the Orpington community and will give young people the opportunity to get into volunteering, thereby providing them with invaluable skills.
At the heart of the work of the Red Cross is providing help to people in crisis, both in the UK and overseas. Amongst many activities it is committed to supporting refugees, preparing for and responding to disasters, and providing an Emergency Response service.
Jo Johnson MP said: 'It is great to see this new Red Cross shop on Orpington High Street which further complements the ongoing positive development of Orpington Town Centre, with the arrival of a new 7-screen Odeon cinema, three new restaurants, a Premier Inn Hotel as well as in due course the planned new Health and Wellbeing centre.'
Jo Johnson MP hosted a meeting in Westminster today, attended by local councillors Colin Smith and Melanie Stevens, along with David Blackburn of Bromley Council and representatives from Thames Water and Southern Gas Network.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring together relevant parties to encourage Thames Water to work with Southern Gas Network, in order to minimise the disruption caused by utilities works on Leaves Green Road, which is of major concern to local businesses and residents.
Thames Water have agreed to install a pressure release valve (PRV) on this part of their network, which will halve the pressure on the pipework. The PRV will support the pipe infrastructure, prolong the life of the mains water pipe and will lead to a greater than 50% reduction in the number of leaks in the network. The work to install the PRV will be carried out in the week commencing 5 January 2015, coinciding with Southern Gas Network works which have already been scheduled.
Local councillors urged Thames Water and Southern Gas Network to make every effort to minimise disruption to road users during their works. Both Thames Water and Southern Gas Networks offered assurances that traffic flows would be carefully monitored and adjustments will be made to temporary traffic lights to reflect this; manual traffic controls will also be employed as necessary.
Jo Johnson MP said: 'I am very pleased that progress was made at this meeting. Biggin Hill residents have had to put up with terrible delays along Leaves Green Road for too long. It was good to see all parties working towards the same goal of improving gas and water infrastructure as necessary, while considering the impact that these works have on local residents and businesses. I thank everyone who attended today's meeting for their time and look forward to the completion of this next stage of Thames Water and Southern Gas Network works by mid-January.'
Orpington MP Jo Johnson cut the ribbon recently at the opening ceremony of the new Meadway Post Office in Chelsfield.
Jo said: 'I am honoured to attend the grand opening of this new branch in Meadway and I would like to pay tribute to Mr Dennis Penny, the previous post master, for all of his tireless years of service to local residents.'
He added: 'Many residents in the community rely on this important institution and I'm glad that they will benefit from the longer opening 8am-6pm hours that this Post Office will offer."
The Employment Allowance forms a key part of the Government's economic plan and is designed to support businesses and jobs creation. Introduced in April 2014, it offers businesses and charities a reduction of up to £2000 every year in their employer Class 1 National Insurance bill.
New figures recently published show that 856,000 employers across the UK have already claimed the Employment Allowance, just six months into the scheme. The Government estimates that, as a result of the Employment Allowance, up to 500,000 small businesses and charities will make no employer National Insurance payments this year.
Jo Johnson MP says: 'I am delighted that Orpington forms part of this national success story – these new figures show that 1300 Orpington businesses have taken up the offer of the Employment Allowance since April this year. This is terrific news and I would encourage other eligible businesses and charities to take this up without delay, helping local jobs and economic growth.'
The Government is fully commited to supporting opportunites for employment. Since the coalition came into power, employment has increased by more than 1.7 million and there are now a record 30.76 million people in employment in the UK.
Jo Johnson MP attended Remembrance Sunday events in Orpington on Sunday 9th November 2014.
Jo joined in the parade to the Orpington War Memorial for a Service of Remembrance, where he laid a wreath on behalf of the Orpington Conservative Association along with Daphne Wright, Chair of the OCA.
The parade then proceeded along Orpington High Street to All Saints Church, for a further Service of Remembrance before paying respects at the graveside of Ivy Millichamp, the last civilian in Britain to be killed by enemy action in World War II. The parade then moved on to a final Service of Remembrance at the Canadian Corner Commonwealth War Graves.
Jo says: 'It was an honour to lay a wreath at the Orpington War Memorial this weekend. On the one-hundreth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, we remember and honour all those who have given their lives for their country to help preserve our democratic freedom. My sincere thanks go to all the organisers of these annual Remembrance events who give us this opportunity to pay our respects.'
Photograph shows Jo Johnson MP with (l-r) Mr Ron Taylor, Deputy Mayor Councillor Kate Lymer and Councillor Pauline Tunnicliffe
Jo met recently with the Chief Executive of Southeastern, Mr David Statham, and Network Rail representatives, to discuss local rail issues in Orpington.
Top of the agenda was Jo's call on Southeastern to act on longstanding demands for fast trains to and from Orpington Station at peak hours.
Jo said: 'Commuters in Orpington deserve a fair deal when it comes to their rail services. That is why at the meeting with Southeastern recently I called on Managing Director, David Statham, to act on longstanding calls to introduce fast trains to and from Orpington Station at peak hours, given the already inflated costs to commuters for their daily commute.'
During the meeting, Network Rail also set out its 'Thameslink Programme', with plans to rebuild London Bridge Station and to realign the track in the approach to the station.
Jo said: 'The increased capacity at Orpington Station will be of great benefit to commuters, and the programme to rebuild London Bridge station will result in greater connectivity to more destinations, improved punctuality, and a new station with better facilities, more space, and step-free access.'
Jo Johnson MP is encouraging local education and training organisations to back Lloyds Banking Group’s Money for Life Challenge, a national competition for 16–24 year olds.
Financial education became part of the national curriculum in September 2014 and this Challenge offers a complementary way for young people to learn vital money management skills, while helping to promote financial education in their community.
Supported by Lloyds Banking Group and UK Youth, the Money for Life Challenge seeks to find the most successful and innovative ways that young people can use to improve their money management skills, as well as those of their friends, families and communities.
Teams of up to ten young people in further education, work-based learning, community learning or a training organisation can apply for a £500 grant to enter the competition, with the support of an individual project sponsor from their organisation. The closing date for teams to enter is Friday 21 November 2014.
Jo says: ‘I am very pleased that financial education has become part of the national curriculum and encourage young people in Orpington to improve their financial skills and share their newly acquired knowledge with the community through taking part in the Money for Life Challenge. I very much look forward to hearing about Orpington’s innovative projects and ideas.’
I was delighted to welcome pupils from Downe Primary School to Westminster recently.
Following their parliamentary tour, I was able to join them for a very entertaining question and answer session – where I was met with a range of challenging and funny questions.
The children were fantastic representatives for the school and I was pleased to write to congratulate the head of Downe Primary School on the exemplary behaviour of her pupils during their visit.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that over the last year, unemployment has had its largest annual fall since records began - with a record number of people now in work.
Orpington is part of this success story. There were 640 Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in the constituency in September 2014, a significant drop from 963 in September last year, which means just 1.5% of the economically active population aged 16-64 in Orpington is unemployed.
These strong jobs numbers clearly show that the Government's long-term economic plan is working, building a stronger, healthier economy, and getting us closer towards the target of full employment.
To bring this about, the Government has been backing business with lower jobs taxes and better infrastructure, while reforming welfare so that work always pays. As these figures confirm, these measures are paying off, with more people finding the security of work than ever before.
There is further to go, and families are still feeling the effects of Labour’s great recession. The only way to get living standards up for the long-term is to stick to the plan which is getting people off welfare and into work – giving more people the security and self-respect of a good job and a regular pay packet for themselves and their families.
Jo Johnson, Orpington's MP, says 'Unemployment is falling like a stone and I’m delighted that Orpington is part of this great national story.'
Bromley’s Waste4Fuel “ordeal” is finally over after its environmental permit was revoked.
The St Paul’s Cray site has been bringing misery to residents for some time, with dozens of fires and some locals suggesting it smells of “rotting corpses”.
But the Environment Agency’s work to re-profile the plant to allow safe access for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is now complete, it was today (October 15) announced.
Waste4Fuel’s authorisation was officially repealed on Wednesday October 8.
It is now a criminal offence for the company to operate a waste facility on the land without the benefit of the environmental permit.
Orpington MP Jo Johnson claimed it marks “the end of the road for Waste4Fuel”.
He added: “I’m delighted that the environmental permit has now been revoked once and for all, but this has gone on far too long and has been a horrifying ordeal for residents, who have my deepest sympathy for everything they have endured at the hands of these cowboy operators.
“The priority now is to clear the site and hold to account those responsible for this scandalous saga.”
The agency is continuing to work with partners to find a suitable long-term solution for the site.
To read the original story, click here.
Environment Agency work to re-profile the waste at Waste4Fuel to allow safe access for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is now complete and Waste 4 Fuel’s environmental permit was officially revoked on 8 October 2014.
It is a criminal offence to operate a waste facility on land without the benefit of an environmental permit and the Environment Agency are now carrying out daily site inspections, with LFB, to monitor the levels of waste on the site as well as the fire risk.
The Environment Agency is continuing to work with multi-agency partners towards a suitable long-term solution for the site.
Jo says: ‘This is the end of the road for Waste4Fuel. I’m delighted that the environmental permit has now been revoked once and for all, but this has gone on far too long and has been a horrifying ordeal for residents, who have my deepest sympathy for everything they have endured at the hands of these cowboy operators. The priority now is to clear the site and hold to account those responsible for this scandalous saga.’
Please report any incidents at the site to the Environment Agency’s Incident Hotline (0800 80 70 60).
Natwest recently hosted a lunchtime business event in Orpington with Jo. Held at Hisar Meze on Orpington High Street, Jo, Natwest and RBS staff, alongside local business people, enjoyed a lively discussion around the Government's aims and local aspirations.
Ben Marsdale from Marben and Co, an Orpington-based specialist cleaning company, said afterwards:
"We found it to be useful and informative. It is also a great positive to feel that both your local MP and bank take a strong interest in a business like ours and its continued development. We covered topics relevant to us including VAT, wage rates and structure and employment trends."
Jo added: "This was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet with local businesses and I value the conversations we had, which were stimulating and informative. I am grateful to RBS and Natwest for arranging the lunch and thank the staff at Hisar Meze for another warm welcome."
We are continuing to work with London Fire Brigade (LFB) at the Waste4Fuel (W4F) site to reduce the immediate risk of a significant fire and improve access for firefighting purposes.
Acumen are continuing to remove and re-profile the main waste pile which is reducing any smouldering or steam coming from the Western and Southern boundaries of the site. So far approximately 1,600 tonnes of waste have been removed from the site. We estimate that this work will continue for a further 2 weeks.
Additionally, on 9 September 2014 we served a revocation notice for the Environmental Permit on W4F under Regulation 22 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. The revocation of the permit takes effect on 8 October 2014, subject to any appeal being lodged by W4F.
In the meantime please contact us on 03708 506 506 if you have any questions during office hours. You can report environmental incidents at any time on 0800 807060.
As part of the Helping Britain Prosper Plan, the Lloyds Bank Community Fund has shortlisted three community groups in Orpington for an award. This is part of their commitment to bringing communities closer together to help them thrive.
Earlier this year, Lloyds customers, the wider public and staff were able to nominate local good causes to invite them to apply to the Community Fund this year. Over 8,300 groups were nominated. Nearly 600 Lloyds Banking Group colleagues worked together to assess the applications and decide the final shortlist.
1,400 good causes in 350 communities across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are set to benefit from the Community Fund this year with awards of up to £3,000, depending upon the number of votes received.
A public vote will run until 10 October 2014.
Jo urges his constituents to vote for these excellent causes here
The MPs for Orpington, Old Bexley and Sidcup, and Bromley have joined forces in the fight against the rubbish mountain at Waste4Fuel in Orpington.
James Brokenshire, Bob Neill and Jo Johnson have pressed for the Environment Agency to take urgent steps to see that the rubbish mountain at Waste4Fuel is removed as soon as possible.
The call from the local MPs came during a meeting with Environment Secretary Liz Truss. The meeting was to discuss the site in Sevenoaks way. The abandoned site is thought to still have 15,000 tonnes of waste.
All three called on the Environment Agency to take further action to remove the mountain of waste left on the site after it was abandoned by Waste4Fuel.
The MPs asked the Secretary of State to consider imposing tougher financial obligations on firms wishing to apply for a licence to operate a waste transfer site like Waste4Fuel. Under their proposal, firms would have to stump up cash for a security bond in advance. This could then be used to pay for the clearance of the site and other clean up obligations should they fail to comply with their licence.
The Secretary of State agreed to raise the MPs' concerns with the chief executive of the Environment Agency and ask that all options to resolve the situation be considered. She also said she would examine what further changes to the law may be needed.
Commenting in a joint statement, the three MPs said: "We welcome the positive response from the Secretary of State to the continuing concerns of local residents. It is simply unacceptable for the local community to be left with what amounts to a legalised fly tip on their doorsteps when an operator like Waste4Fuel does a midnight flit. We welcome the commitment to press the Environment Agency to consider all options to address the current problem and consider changes to waste regulations.
"It cannot be right that firms can cash in on waste dumped on their sites and then seemingly walk away scot free from the problems they have created. Obligating those seeking a licence to take out security bonds would help reduce this risk and ensure that those operating these sites foot the bill when things go wrong.
"There are serious questions which still need to be answered by the Environment Agency as to why they allowed things to go on this long and get this bad. We will continue to press for the site to be cleared as quickly as possible and those responsible for this serious problem to be held to account."
To read the original story, click here