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Latest email newsletter by Robert Courts MP

Good afternoon from West Oxfordshire!

Greetings to you all and I hope you are well.  It has been another busy two weeks here in West Oxfordshire, filled with meetings, events and visits all over the constituency.  Although the weather has been a touch hit and miss, rain or shine I have enjoyed getting out and about and meeting as many of you as possible.

My Summer Tour has taken me to pubs and supermarkets, village greens and businesses, charities and libraries.  Watch out for my upcoming newsletters for more details, and as ever this newsletter is only a snapshot of what I have been up to – see much more on my social media below!
HEADLINE NEWS

Maternity Services at the Horton under threat

This has been a very important week for health in West Oxfordshire.  Earlier this week, I spoke at the Council’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) meeting to discuss Oxfordshire Health bosses’ proposals for changes of services at the Horton General.
I was pleased that the Committee ruled that if the Clinical Commission Group’s (CCG) board passed the proposals, it will refer the issue of maternity services to the Secretary of State for Health.  I am pleased that the Committee appreciate that these plans have been rushed and do not have an adequate evidence base to be passed.
The CCG have proposed that the downgrade of maternity services from the Horton General in Banbury will become permanent.  This will mean that the only obstetric unit in Oxfordshire will be at the already over-stretched John Radcliffe in Oxford.  Banbury will have a Midwife-Led Unit (MLU) which will provide the same maternity services as Chipping Norton Community Hospital.  MLUs are a valuable resource for low-risk births, but having adequate obstetric care is essential to ensure the safety of mothers and babies.
The impact of this assessment goes far beyond just Banbury, but across the entirety of Oxfordshire.  I share concerns held by many in West Oxfordshire that this is the thin end of the wedge.  A downgrade of services at the Horton seriously threatens the future of maternity services at Chipping Norton.  An MLU at the Horton will undoubtedly lead to a decrease in use at Chippy.
These plans are all very well until something goes wrong and mothers have to travel during labour from Banbury to the JR, risking the health of both mothers and babies.  These proposals are unsafe, they are poorly thought through, the procedure is flawed.
I then attended and spoke at the CCG’s meeting on Thursday to urge them to reconsider this proposal.  I am very disappointed that they passed the proposals as laid out.  I am however pleased that, due to HOSC’s meeting, the CCG’s decision will now be referred to Jeremy Hunt, and I shall do all I can to ensure that he is fully aware of my concerns, as well as those of my constituents and the local authority.
HOSC has already referred the temporary closure of obstetrics at the Horton in 2016 to the Secretary of State, and in 2008 the proposed downgrade of maternity services at the Horton was independently reviewed and overturned.  We have a very strong case for this decision to be changed, and I will keep you all updated as soon as I learn anything further.

Watch my speech to HOSC below:
WEST OXFORDSHIRE ACTIVITIES


Summer Tour
Since Parliament has been in recess, I have been on a Summer Tour around the constituency.  This has included many visits, events and meetings, as well as mobile surgeries in the day and a pub tour in the evenings.
I have travelled all over the constituency, from Shilton to Chipping Norton, from Enstone to Ramsden.
I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with as many of you as possible and have a chat as well as discuss your concerns - conversation was definitely not only restricted to politics!
Both the pub tour and the mobile surgeries have been a great success and I look forward to holding more events in the future.  You can see more about where I have been on my tour here.
If you would like me to come to your village do drop me an email and I will try to get something in place for my next tour!

     
Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge

I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to visit Witney library to help launch their summer reading challenge. Oxfordshire libraries have invited thousands of youngsters to take part in a detective-themed reading challenge this summer. Children aged four to 11 can join the Animal Agents investigative team and solve a mystery by reading six library books and collecting special stickers.  All children need to do is sign up at their local library and receive a collector’s folder.  As they read their books over the summer, they receive stickers to help them crack the clues and help the Animal Agents find out what's really been going on behind the scenes!
I met many children taking part in my visit, as well as the young helpers at the library.  I do hope that I find the time to do some reading myself over the rest of the recess period!

National Citizen Service in Witney
The young people of Witney are certainly being kept busy this summer- I further visited the National Citizen Service in Witney.  The scheme is for young people in Year 11 and 12 and helps to build confidence, as well as meeting lots of new people and have fun.
I visited this summer’s local group at the Witney Town Hall who were fundraising for the Yellow Submarine Café in Witney (another fantastic cause I would strongly recommend you check out: http://www.yellowsubmarine.org.uk/).  An enjoyable afternoon with a talented and enthusiastic team!

     
LOCAL ACTION
Business Rate Relief
I am pleased that over one hundred small and medium sized businesses across West Oxfordshire are set to receive discretionary rate relief awards, ranging from £120 up to £11,500.  This is designed to help ease the pressure on businesses who were given a new rateable value from April 2017, following a national revaluation of business premises by the Government.

This is something that needed to be done, but from the beginning I have been concerned about those whose rent will increase significantly.  There are a number of key businesses in West Oxfordshire who are facing a large increase in their business rate bills.  I have lobbied the Chancellor of the Exchequer about this issue earlier this year, and I was pleased that discretionary relief schemes were included in the spring Budget.  I am glad that this is now being put into place and am working with West Oxfordshire District Council to ensure that this assistance is provided as soon as possible.

The new scheme is in place to help businesses that have a rateable value of less than £200,000 a year and who are, this year, facing large rate rises of more than £600.  If you think your business may be eligible for discretionary relief but have not yet contacted West Oxfordshire District Council, please call the Council urgently on 01993 861070.
 
A40 petition - sign up now!
 
As you might know, I have launched a petition which I will present to Parliament, making the case for funding and expertise to be provided to find a suitable, long-term solution to the A40, further to my meetings with the Transport Secretary in Parliament and his visit here to see the problem for himself.
I shall present the petition after the Summer Recess, but I want it to be signed by as many people as possible.  By putting this to Parliament as we head into the busiest part of the parliamentary calendar, I will be able to get momentum behind residents’ desire for improvement to the A40, and hope to really make an impact.
Congestion is a blight on West Oxfordshire, with many residents facing hours every day sat in traffic, and I am determined to find a solution.  It has been an issue raised with me again and again, and I am taking action rather than just words.  Every signature on a petition is direct evidence of the strength of feeling on an issue - and there is enormous strength of feeling about the A40 in West Oxfordshire. 
Every signature will help me to secure the change we need, and I would encourage all of you to sign up below:
Sign up now!
West Oxfordshire Footpaths
It was a pleasure to walk near Bampton with the Oxfordshire Ramblers, to share thoughts on the values of walking.  We also recorded the footpath issues that we came across on our walk, something I would urge you all to report on your walks this summer, hopefully whilst enjoying the sunshine!

You are able to report any issues you see to Oxfordshire County Council, through their reporting tool below.

You don’t need to know the grid reference of an issue, handily the OCC map has icons for stiles, gates, footbridges and fingerposts so it’s relatively easy to spot where an issue was.  If you have pictures of any issue, you can send the with your reference number to: countryside@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Report any issues here!


OVO Energy Tour road closures
It is exciting that West Oxfordshire will play host to the OVO Energy Tour, which runs from 3rd to 10th September, passing through our area on Saturday 9th September.  The world’s best cyclists will be travelling from Edinburgh to Cardiff in a gruelling eight day race.
I encourage everyone to come along and watch – spectators are welcome and it is free to watch!
However, this does mean there will be several road closures that day.  The main route moves from Wootton to Charlbury and then through the Wychwoods.  The full route and more details about the day can be found below:
Find out more information here!
NATIONAL NEWS- IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!
Over recess, the Government doesn’t stop! Here are some of the important announcements made over the past few weeks which I think you might be interested in:
 
The Government has launched a £200m fund to support new rural broadband projects, and provide significant amounts of funding to on-farm businesses to invest in new infrastructure such as new buildings and machinery.  This should provide excellent much needed funds to rural economies such as West Oxfordshire.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley, announced that BT have put forward an offer to deliver high speed broadband of at least 10 megabits per second to every home and business in the UK. The government will now consider if this offer or a regulatory approach will best deliver our commitment for full broadband coverage across the country.  I will continue to scrutinise this and see how West Oxfordshire can benefit from this new partnership, to ensure we all have access to superfast broadband as soon as possible.

The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, set out the government’s plan to deliver 21,000 new posts in mental health support by 2021. This is fantastic news and I am pleased that mental health is receiving parity with physical health.  This specialised case will ensure that many more receive the care they need.
 
As Chair for the All-Party Group for Small and Micro-Businesses, I was also pleased that the Government has announced a new National Investment Fund to help cutting-edge British start-upsbecome world-leading companies.  This is a great step to ensure that we remain a world-leading centre of business.

                 
WANT MORE?
This update contains just a snapshot of my work locally and in Westminster; I am of course very aware you will have big issues in your area (or on your mind) which I haven't covered and hope you know you can get in touch at any time. Much more also exists on my website and YouTube.

For those wishing to share or print this newsletter, you can download it on my website here.
Get in touch!
 
You can also follow me on Twitter for instant updates on my work or find me on Facebook and join that community.

For any casework queries please email me at robert@robertcourts.co.uk

You can also take a look at my columns written exclusively for the Witney Gazette.

Hope you are all doing well and I look forward to updating you on my work in my next newsletter.
 

Robert Courts
MP for Witney
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