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Bromley’s Waste4Fuel “ordeal” is finally over after its environmental permit was revoked.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Waste4Fuel’s authorisation was officially repealed on Wednesday October 8.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
The Maypole Project, which helps support children with disabilities and complex illnesses, and their families, is to receive the grant from Team London. The money will go towards recruiting volunteers to help young people to engage in more sports activities.
Team London was set up by Boris Johnson in 2011 to provide small grants to increase volunteering opportunities across London for young people. So far, £813,500 has been given to support 152 projects and fund almost 12,000 volunteers.
Mr Johnson said: "It is fantastic that increasing numbers of young people are willing to give their time to build stronger communities and improve the capital by volunteering at brilliant projects."
Veronica Wadley, the mayor's senior volunteering advisor, said: "A key mission for Team London is to boost volunteering in local communities and the Small Grants scheme enables us to do this whilst increasing the number of young Londoners getting involved."
To learn more about the Mayor's volunteering programme, click here
To read the original story, click here
In Westminster last week, Jo met with managers from BT, alongside local councillors and campaigners, to express his deep frustration at the lack of high-speed broadband in rural areas of the Orpington constituency. Already this year, he has written to Ed Vaizey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Cllr Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council, as well as to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to bring the problem to their attention. Jo reiterated his commitment to the roll out of superfast broadband and pressed BT for faster progress.
Jo said: "It is unacceptable that there are areas within the M25 that still have to endure slow speeds. I would strongly urge residents in areas such as Downe and Pratts Bottom to click on the links below and help us build a case for immediate action."
To see what service is available to you over the bt Openreach network, click here
To register your interest in bringing broadband to your area, click here
Jo spoke with the Chief Executive of Association of British Foods and met with site managers of Allied Bakeries in Orpington to urgently discuss the news that the factory, the second largest employer in the constituency, plans to stop baking, putting up to 170 jobs at risk. The site will continue to support distribution and employ over 200 people. There will be a full consultation and discussions with unions before any final decision is made.
Jo said: "In my meetings and discussions today with the Chief Executive of Association of British Foods and site managers of Allied Bakeries in Orpington, I sought the most robust assurances that all people affected be given appropriate opportunities elsewhere in the company. We also need a proper explanation of why Allied, which has been baking here since 1938, cannot meet its corporate objectives through restructuring elsewhere in the company. The consultation must be a proper one that gives real answers to these questions. In the meantime, my deepest sympathies are with the hardworking employees affected by this disappointing news."
Photo: Jo outside Allied Bakeries Orpington factory earlier today
An Orpington bakery that has stood since 1938 could bake its last loaf of bread. News Shopper has been told Allied Bakeries, heralded as a 'local institution' and said to be the town's second largest employer, is proposing to cut up to 170 jobs, with a full consultation now underway.
At 4pm today (August 4) staff members were to be told the news as parent company ABF Grain Products Ltd looks to takes action following a decline in sales.
Just hours before Jo Johnson MP met with site managers at the Cray Avenue factory and had also discussed the decision with the chief executive of the Association of British Foods.
Mr Johnson told News Shopper it is "disappointing news" and "a difficult day for the company", but said he has been told employees would all be offered alternative roles.
The MP said: "My heart goes out to everyone affected. "There is to be a big consultation and it's happening up and down the country. There's been a decline in the market. The important thing is we all work together."
Allied Bakeries, which produces popular brands such as Kingsmill and Sunblest, seems to be reacting to research that shows that Britons are buying fewer sliced supermarket loaves than ever. Although the move could mark the end of baking in Orpington, the site would continue to operate as a distribution and logistics centre, News Shopper understands.
Mr Johnson said he was told the site could continue to employ over 200 people. Following discussions, he added: "I sought the most robust assurances that all people affected be given appropriate opportunities elsewhere in the company.
"We also need a proper explanation of why Allied Bakeries, which has been baking here since 1938, cannot meet its corporate objectives through restructuring elsewhere in the company. The consultation must be a proper one that gives real answers to these questions. In the meantime, my deepest sympathies are with the hardworking employees affected by this disappointing news."
Jo paid an unannounced visit to Waste4Fuel after learning that the operators had abandoned the site.
Jo said: "This is the end of the road for Waste4fuel. I'm glad that the site has been secured and no further waste is being allowed in. The clean-up begins now. It's been an appalling experience for local residents and they have my deepest sympathy for what they have been through these past months. I look forward to a brighter future for Cornwall Drive and this part of the Cray Valley."
Photo: Jo inspects site earlier today. Copyright: Keith Larby
Afterwards, he said: "It was wonderful to meet so many jolly residents of this welcoming residential home. I was honoured to open the minibus – and have a chance to sit in the driving seat. It will offer greater opportunities to residents of the Saxon Day Centre and I am extraordinarily grateful to Age Concern for their contribution."
Sally Williams, the advertising and marketing trustee, said: "It was great to see Jo so enthusiastic about our Centre, and how we help to improve the lives of so many elderly residents in the Orpington area."
For more information on the Saxon Day Centre, click here
Photo: Jo welcomes new minibus with Saxon Day Centre residents. Copyright: Keith Larby
This afternoon, Jo toured the Cray River with WWF and Coca-Cola to inspect the progress of their joint river enhancement and habitat creation projects. Coca Cola has a bottling plant in Sidcup, which employs 250 people and serves the London and South East area, and is teaming up with WWF to improve the whole catchment area. Both organisations want to see water used more efficiently and the effects on the environment of its extraction minimised.
Jo said: "It was fabulous to see the Cray River restored to its former glory as an outstanding example of one of Britain's chalk rivers. The WWF team, Coca-Cola and all the friends of the Cray River have done a terrific job on behalf of the community."
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK, said: "It was a great pleasure to be able to walk with Jo Johnson along the River Cray in his constituency, and to talk to him about the importance of chalk-streams. These are an almost uniquely English ecosystem – we have the majority of the 200 or so that exist globally."
"That's why WWF is working with Coca-Cola to protect and restore the River Cray and its diverse wildlife, and I was glad to be able to show Jo Johnson such a beautiful river, though one where we still have work to do to restore a full community of wildlife."
James Clark, Senior Manager for Public Affairs GB, Coca-Cola Enterprises said: "WWF-UK, Coca-Cola Great Britain, and Coca-Cola Enterprises have been working together to secure a thriving future for English rivers since 2012. One of our two exemplar projects focuses on the River Cray, near to our Sidcup manufacturing site, has seen volunteers from the local site help improve fish habitats on the river. We were delighted to join the visit to the Cray with Jo Johnson".
Cray Valley Project 2 – Jo with (L-R) Mark Saxon (Head of Public Affairs, Coca Cola GB); Ben Stafford (Head of Public Affairs, WWF-UK); Rose O'Neill (UK Freshwater Policy Manager, WWF-UK); David Nussbaum (Chief Executive, WWF-UK); James Clark (Senior Public Affairs Manager, Coca Cola Enterprises). Copywrite: Keith Larby
Police in Bromley have seized a large quantity of cannabis following a raid at an address in Saltwood Close on Friday (July 25).
Officers from the Orpington Safer Neighbourhoods Team found severeal bags containing what is believed to be cannabis, as well as other items such as snap bags and scales.
A man, 30, and a 17-year-old boy were arrested at the scene, with the second suspect also arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods. Both have been bailed until late August.
Sergeant Nick McLaughlin said: "Drugs cause harm to local communities and we will continue to target people that are using, producing or supplying drugs in Orpington.
"The presence of drugs of any kind can lead to other problems of crime and antisocial behaviour in that area, so we'd encourage local residents to get in touch with us or contact Crimestoppers if they suspect drugs are being used or dealt in their local neighbourhood."
The team can be contacted on 020 8721 2729. Alternatively, Crimestoppers, which is an independent charity, can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.
To read the original story, click here
Jo has urged young people to follow the example of Orpington resident, Guy Brown, and sign up for the International Citizenship Service (ICS).
From March to June 2014, Guy was part of a team of volunteers on a community development project in Nicaragua through the ICS, which is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID). Some of the work he did included constructing a classroom for a small school as well as promoting gender equality and environmental awareness with community events.
The ICS allows 18-25 year olds of any economic background in the UK to volunteer abroad. Volunteers are given a means-tested fundraising target, usually of £800. The programme aims to combat poverty oversees whilst increasing the participants' skills and confidence.
Guy said: "My experience and the help that I gave could not have happened without the funding given by DFID. It would be great if more people in Orpington could know that the opportunity exists and how accessible it is."
Jo said: "I congratulate Guy on his service and for trying to raise awareness of this fantastic opportunity. I strongly urge young Orpington residents to consider signing up."
For more information on the International Citizenship Service, click here
Mr Johnson was promoted to Minister of State in the Cabinet Office, while retaining his existing role as Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit.
He said: "I am delighted to be Orpington's eyes and ears in No10 and to be able to work with David Cameron to help shape the policies that will meet our nation's long-term challenges."
It comes as the the PM David Cameron looks to rework his team in the lead up to next year's General Election.
To read the original story, click here
The Environment Agency has today served an enforcement notice on Waste4Fuel to stop any further waste being brought into the Orpington site.
The new enforcement notice means that any person depositing waste at Waste4Fuel will be committing an offence and may face further action from the Environment Agency.
Failure to comply with the new enforcement notice will result in further regulatory action being taken. Several conditions within the new enforcement notice need to be met before further waste can be accepted at the site.
The Environment Agency is awaiting a written decision from the High Court after it dismissed the contempt of court case last week for failure to maintain fire breaks and store new waste separately at the site.
The High Court order required all combustible waste to be cleared from the site by 1 May 2014, and the Environment Agency will consider what action it should take once the reasons for the courts' decision on 1 July has been considered.
Andrew Pearce, Environment Agency Area Manager for Kent and South London, said: "This enforcement notice is another step towards the Environment Agency bringing the Waste4Fuel site back into compliance.
"The High Court Order we secured last year has not been complied with, and waste on site is slowly increasing. We understand the frustration of local residents and are doing everything within our power to bring the site back into compliance as soon as possible."
Jo was promoted to Minister of State in the Cabinet Office in this week's reshuffle, while retaining his existing role as Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit.
Jo said: "I am delighted to be Orpington's eyes and ears in No10 and to be able to work with David Cameron to help shape the policies that will meet our nation's long-term challenges."