MP for Dartford
Reporting back from Dartford and Westminster - now reaching over 5,000 people in the local area
Portrait competition to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee
I was delighted to organise a competition for all primary school children in Dartford to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen.
The competition involved the children producing a picture of the Queen to commemorate this special moment in history.
Each school judged its own entries and chose two winners which are on display in Bluewater until 10th June, when the country celebrates Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee during the extended bank holiday weekend.
On 27th May, I invited all the winners to Bluewater for the opening of the display and presentation of the prizes by the Mayor, which included a goody bag and a certificate.
I am very grateful to Bluewater for displaying the pictures which show the wonderful talent of local school children. I would encourage everyone to visit the display in the Lower Rose Gallery.
Help with the cost of living
The Chancellor has announced a new £15 billion support package targeted towards millions of low-income households. This brings the total cost of living support to £37 billion this year.
The significant intervention includes a new, one-off £650 payment to more than 8 million low-income households on Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and legacy benefits, with separate one-off payments of £300 to pensioner households and £150 to individuals receiving disability benefits – groups who are most vulnerable to rising prices.
Rishi Sunak also announced that the energy bills discount due to come in from October is being doubled from £200 to £400, while the requirement to pay it back will be scrapped. This means households will receive a £400 discount on their energy bills from October.
The new Cost of Living Support package will mean that almost all of the eight million most vulnerable households will receive at least £1,200 of extra support this year, including the £150 council tax rebate that many families received last month – equal to the average energy price cap rise over this year.
To ensure there is support for everyone who needs it, Mr Sunak also announced a £500 million increase for the Household Support Fund, delivered by Local Authorities, extending it from October until March 2023. This brings the total Household Support Fund to £1.5 billion.
To help pay for the extra support - which takes the total direct government cost of living support to £37 billion – the Chancellor said a new temporary 25% Energy Profits Levy would be introduced for oil and gas companies, reflecting their extraordinary profits. At the same time, in order to increase the incentive to invest, the new levy will include a generous new 80% investment allowance. This balanced approach allows the Government to deliver support to families, while encouraging investment and growth.
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Update on assistance to Ukraine
Above is an update of the military support the UK has provided to Ukraine. To view the video, please click on the image.
TfL consultation on expanding the ULEZ
The Mayor of London has asked TfL to consult on proposals to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide from 29th August 2023.
He recently announced he had scrapped the idea of the highly damaging Greater London Congestion Charge. However, he now plans to expand the ULEZ to the whole of London which will mean Dartford residents will still have to pay or upgrade their cars. This means that drivers of cars, smaller vans, motorbikes and other lighter vehicles travelling into London, which do not meet the ULEZ standard, will have to pay £12.50 per day.
Not only is the Mayor proposing to tax people who do not vote for him, he will make those worst off, poorer. There are also no guarantees that the standard for meeting the ULEZ threshold will remain as it is and not be changed by the Mayor in the future. He has not ruled out applying this charge to all petrol and diesel vehicles.
As we know, the border around London does not run along major routes. Instead, it straddles residential roads. In Dartford, for example, there are residential roads located in Kent where it is impossible to drive out of the road without entering the London Borough of Bexley. With this daily charge in place, hundreds of my constituents could have to pay a fee just to drive out of their road.
The consultation will run for 10 weeks until 29th July. To take part, please click on the link below. Alternatively, you can send your written views to
* [email protected]
(External link)<mailto:[email protected]
* FREEPOST TFL HAVE YOUR SAY (no stamp needed)
Consultation on expanding the ULEZ<[link removed]>
Over the past year, the number of claimants in Dartford has fallen by 1,830 as shown on the table below. The table also shows changes over the last month and since March 2020, before the pandemic affected the claimant count.
These figures for the (unadjusted) claimant count, show the number of people who were claiming unemployment related benefits. This includes those who were claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work.
There was a large increase in the claimant count between March and May 2020. While some of this increase will have been people who became unemployed, some will have been employed people who became eligible for Universal Credit due to changes the Government introduced in response to the coronavirus.
George Low was a young man from Dartford who was viciously and fatally attacked on holiday in Cyprus in 2016. Ben Barker, his friend, was also attacked, but survived.
Since George was murdered, I have tried all avenues to seek justice for him. In 2018, I travelled to Cyprus to meet Government Ministers, senior police officers and the Attorney General, in a bid to have those responsible for George's murder returned to Cyprus and put before the courts. However, because of the complicated political situation in Cyprus, the suspects have been able to evade justice.
Some progress has been made, but the two suspects, Sali Ahmet and Mehmet Akpinar remain at large.
I recently met with the Bulgarian Ambassador as one of the suspects is Bulgarian. The Bulgarian authorities confirmed they have been monitoring the suspect and although he is not currently residing in Bulgaria, should he visit the country, or any other country where the European arrest warrant system applies, we were assured he will be arrested.
Fastrack electric bus
In November last year, it was announced that Kent County Council had been successful in their bid to introduce a new fleet of electric buses in Dartford, Gravesham and Dover as part of the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme.
Three years previously, Fastrack had taken part in an eight-week electric bus trial commissioned by Volvo Bus UK. The trial showed that electric buses could operate without disrupting current schedules while improving air quality, energy efficiency, noise and passenger comfort and providing financial benefits.
An exclusive year-long trial of an electric bus in Dartford on the Fastrack network was announced and I was delighted to be invited to its launch. I met with a large group of people, including councillors and the team from Volvo Buses, led by Managing Director, Domenico Bondi.
The new buses have tables at the back, charging points and even the wing mirrors have been replaced with cameras so the driver can view screens from the front seat.
During the visit we had a short ride on the bus. The journey was very smooth and very quiet unlike the usual buses!
The buses can be plugged in and charged but it is planned to charge them by electric charging arms known as pantographs, which are being installed along the route. These will include two at Home Gardens.
Dartford is one of the most polluted areas of the country and these new buses will help to reduce air pollution. I look forward to seeing the 28-strong fleet introduced in April next year.
North Kent Mind
At the end of April, I visited North Kent Mind to learn about the valuable work they have been doing over the past few years.
This charitable organisation, which helps thousands of people every year, has been vital during the pandemic, offering mental health support to people of all ages.
During the pandemic years, due to numerous savings made, the organisation has been in the position to enhance its operation by employing some additional staff to make things run more efficiently.
As well as employing nearly 140 people, Mind is supported by lots of volunteers who help run the many therapies, courses and groups on offer. These include talking therapies, Mindfulness and Coping with Life courses as well as Friendship Groups.
In the past year, it has also expanded its services in schools, with a workforce of 15 now covering 30 schools.
It was great to meet the team, including its CEO Justin Bateman and deputy CEO Richard Giles. The work they do is invaluable and it was interesting to learn about how they are working hard to help so many people in our local community with their mental health.
Rhizome is a Dartford-based company with its office in The Nucleus Business and Innovation Centre at The Bridge.
The company is developing its own Hydrogen Refuelling Station System "ZEPHYR" which will produce hydrogen onsite using electrolysis of water, store the high purity hydrogen and dispense it for refuelling of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles.
I met with some of the team at Rhizome, including Director, Rajani Kant Sharma. He explained how battery power is well suited for smaller sized vehicles and for shorter range trips but causes a range of problems when it comes to freight vehicles. This is where hydrogen comes in and makes for an attractive green fuel to operate freight vehicles.
With the system Rhizome is developing, hydrogen can be produced on-site, ready for the refuelling of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles.
Ingress Park flood erosion
I recently met with the Ingress Park Management Group to see for myself the erosion caused to the banks of the Thames. This is caused particularly when the Thames Barrier is closed.
I am working with the Environment Agency to see if we can find a solution to the problem and maintain the integrity of the banks. To this end, I have arranged for the Environment Agency to visit the site to see what assistance they can give to improve the situation.
Wilmington Grammar School 6th form
It was a pleasure to welcome Wilmington Grammar School 6th form Politics students to Westminster recently.
The group took part in an Inside UK Parliament tour and then met me for a question and answer session. Afterwards, they enjoyed the gallery tickets I was able to arrange for them.
If your school would like to visit for a tour and/or gallery tickets, please contact my office. Please give as much notice as possible for tours and gallery tickets as they are in high demand and are booked up months in advance.
I was recently interviewed by Sean Delaney at the Dartford Messenger, for a catch-up on local issues, with particular focus on the theme park. Sean was compiling an article entitled: 'What next for the London Resort? Kent's £2.5bn answer to Disneyland on the Swanscombe Peninsula' and produced a video of me setting out my vision for the site.
To view the article and video, please click on the link below.
What next for the London Resort? - Sean Delaney's article<[link removed]>
St George's Day parade
It was fantastic to see the return of the St George's Day parade and celebrations to Dartford after a two-year absence due to Covid.
Eight schools and 450 children took part in the parade which was organised by Cohesion Plus. The parade headed to Central Park, led by St George and the dragon, drummers and stilt walkers. There, the children sang Happy Birthday to Her Majesty the Queen. It was great to see this wonderful event returning to Dartford!
Fleetdown Primary Academy
It was fantastic to meet the children in year 5 and 6 at Fleetdown Primary Academy for a question and answer session recently.
Discussing the role of Parliament in schools is a vital part of my work so children understand how laws are made that affect them and the importance of our democratic system.
[Gareth Johnson MP website]<[link removed]>
Gareth Johnson MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 0207 219 7047
email: [email protected]
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