MP for Dartford
Reporting back from Dartford and Westminster - now reaching over 5,000 people in the local area
Letter to TfL objecting to its plans to expand the ULEZ to Greater London
At the beginning of July, I submitted a letter to TfL objecting to its plans to expand the ULEZ to cover the whole of Greater London.
This was in response to the London Mayor's consultation on extending the ULEZ to the whole of London in August next year, which ran until 29th July.
I have vocally opposed these plans which would see drivers of cars, smaller vans, motorbikes and other lighter vehicles, which do not meet the ULEZ standard, pay £12.50 daily if they cross the boundary into London.
As I have said before, this is a stealth tax on Dartfordians and will hit the poorest the hardest. This would be a tax imposed on Dartfordians, yet we have no control over the London Mayor as we do not vote for him. Many Dartfordians will find this charge unavoidable as we go about our normal, daily lives. This makes it an oppressive form of taxation which will do little to tackle the pollution in London.
My letter can be found below.
Boris Johnson resignation
In July, after a series of ministerial resignations, it became clear the Prime Minister's position was no longer tenable and he had to resign. We shouldn’t forget his achievements though, such as delivering Brexit, securing the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, being at the forefront of providing support for Ukraine and winning a landslide at the last general election.
People just want us to get on with the job of running the country and that is precisely what we must do whilst choosing his successor. I want to thank Boris Johnson for his service in what is the toughest job in the country.
During a Q&A session in the Government Whips' office, I had a chance to quiz the candidates vying to be the new Prime Minister. This was before the MPs' ballot whittled them down to the final two - Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
My main question was key to Dartford as I asked each of the candidates about their commitment to the Government's Infrastructure Programme, with the Lower Thames Crossing being a key part of that.
As everyone knows, Dartford's traffic issues are a huge problem for the local area. The Dartford Crossing is the worst performing part of the motorway network and the Lower Thames Crossing cannot be built soon enough.
There are around 3,000 incidents on the motorway at Dartford every year and 19 in 20 journeys experience some form of delay. We need the LTC to provide an alternative route for motorists crossing the Thames. I was therefore delighted that each of the candidates confirmed to me their commitment to the current infrastructure programme and they will not try to change the commitment to build the new crossing.
As a Minister in the Government Whips' office, I am prohibited from declaring my support for any particular candidate during the selection and voting process.
I was able to vote in the process as a Conservative MP and I will be able to cast my vote as a member of the Conservative party, during the final stages of the ballot. However, I am unable to make public my choice of candidate.
Law to let employees keep their tips gets a step closer
In my role as a Government Whip, I have helped secure the passage of a new bill for its second reading, which proposes employees should be allowed to keep the tips they earn.
Proposed by Watford MP, Dean Russell, the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill, Private Members' bill, proposes tips, gratuities and service charges paid by customers are, by law, allocated to workers.
It would require employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities and service charges they receive or exercise control over, must be paid to workers in full, without deductions and by the end of the following month.
I was pleased to help this bill's passage through Parliament by ensuring it had sufficient support in the Chamber and was allocated enough time to be debated.
It will ensure that staff who are tipped, get to keep those tips. Tipping should be a pleasure for both the customer and the worker and should not be seen as an opportunity for business owners to take money not intended for them. Too often customers feel it is necessary to ask if the staff member will receive the tip. This bill would change that necessity.
Communities to take back control over proposed street name changes
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced in July that residents and business owners will have a final say over whether their street name can be changed.
All councils in England will need to get agreement from two-thirds of people who live or run businesses on a street before changing its name, subject to parliamentary approval.
This announcement follows a public consultation with over 90% of those responding, backing the plans.
The move will boost local democracy and make sure that names that are valued by the community and form a key part of an area's identity, are not erased without proper consideration.
Consent to change street names has been a legal requirement in the past, but currently street names can be changed without consulting residents.
Street names are often a proud part of a community's identity and hold cherished memories for those that have lived there past and present.
The changes will be introduced following the passage of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.
Dartford's Big Day Out
I was delighted to attend Dartford's Big Day Out which took place on 16th July in Central Park with the theme being "The Best of British".
This free event saw entertainment and activities for the whole family.
There was something for everyone with a miniature steam rally offering rides around the park and vintage cars, buses, tractors, model vehicles and more, on display. People were also able to get up close to a full sized Spitfire taking pride of place, as well as enjoying fair rides and attractions like Punch and Judy and Chair-o-plane, with free rides all day.
The main stage hosted performances throughout the afternoon with tributes to some of Great Britain's most famous names.
The day also featured the best of street entertainment with food stalls on hand to provide refreshments and a Great British Tea Tent where the tea was also free all day.
Attending Dartford's Big Day Out
Update on Ukraine
The first cohort of Ukrainian soldiers taking part in a major new UK-led military programme, which will train up to 10,000 Ukrainians over the coming months, have arrived in the UK.
The programme is part of the UK's enduring commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia's unprovoked invasion.
Using the world-class expertise of the British Army, we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance.
Around 1,050 UK service personnel are deploying to run the programme, which will take place at MOD sites across the North West, South West and South East of the UK. Each course will last several weeks and will be conducted by elements from 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade.
The training will give volunteer recruits with little or no military experience, the skills to be effective in frontline combat. Based on the UK's basic soldier training, the course covers weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict.
The Government has rapidly procured AK assault rifles for the training programme, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train using the weapons they will have on the frontline.
The UK has also gifted clothing and equipment to support Ukrainian soldiers in their training and deployment back in Ukraine.
As well as military training and aid, the UK has now welcomed more than 100,000 people from Ukraine under the two visa schemes.
This figure was reached as the Homes for Ukraine Scheme opens up to allow new applications from children and minors under the age of 18 to come to the UK without a parent or guardian. After listening to Ukrainian parents and working closely with their national government, the Government has introduced changes that will enable a child to apply for a visa if they have proof of parental consent.
My office has assisted numerous Ukrainians to obtain the visas they require so they are able to locate themselves and their families in Dartford.
Since early Spring, the Government has streamlined the visa application system to get people to safety as soon as possible and worked hand-in-hand with councils and community groups to ensure people from Ukraine are fully supported as they adjust to life in the UK.
Dartford Science and Technology College community day
For five years before the pandemic hit, DSTC held an annual community day, raising well over £10,000 for local charities and giving 14,000 hours of assistance in the local area.
I am delighted the event was reinstated this year and I was pleased to support it.
The day is unique as every single student and staff member goes out for one day and makes an impact on their local community.
Below are some pictures of the students painting at Dartford Sea Cadets. Other students helped out at Meadowside Day Centre and primary schools in the area, as well as carrying out a litter pick at Dartford Creek.
Well done to all those involved!
Youth Investment Fund
Phase 1 of the Youth Investment Fund launched on 31st January 2022 with the aim of creating, expanding and improving local youth facilities and their services to drive positive outcomes for young people, including improved health and wellbeing, and skills for work, employability and life.
It is but one element of the Government's Levelling Up package where we are investing £560 million in young people as part of the National Youth Guarantee. This pledge means that by 2025, every young person in England will have access to regular out of school activities, adventures away from home and opportunities to volunteer. This includes all young people aged 11 to 18, and up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities.
I am delighted that two organisations in Dartford have benefited from a grant. Ninth Dartford Scout Group has been awarded £14,877 which will fund camping, training and ICT equipment, fencing and installation of energy efficient windows.
Walk Tall, also based in the constituency, has been awarded £26,150 which will fund therapeutic equipment and IT for this mental health charity. It will help extend counselling provision and therapy activities for children and young people excluded from mainstream schools and/or those children who have had traumatic life experiences.
Phase 2 for the remaining £368 million of the Youth Investment Fund has now launched and details can be found below.
Launch of the Youth Investment Fund phase 2<[link removed]>
Cost of living Council Tax rebate
In the period to the end of June, a total of more than £2 billion had been handed to 15 million households in England under the cost of living Council Tax Rebate Scheme. Over 90% of households who had direct debits set up with their local council, have received their council tax rebate.
Households have until the end of September to claim the £150 payment. Anyone who is yet to receive their rebate is urged to check their local council website for more information and make a claim.
The rebate is part of £37 billion of government support being targeted at those most in need to help with the cost of living. This includes at least £1,200 of extra support for millions of the most vulnerable households this year, with all domestic electricity customers receiving at least £400 towards their bills. An extra £144 million has also been given to councils to provide discretionary support to any household in financial need due to rising energy bills.
[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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