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VICTORIA speaks for constituents in HS2 Select Committee

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Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, addressed the HS2 Select Committee today and asked that HS2 Ltd pay attention to the important concerns of constituents.

Victoria was able to present the petition submitted by previous MP, Sir Tony Baldry, and to add to it considerably. She told the Committee that she was concerned by a lack of communication from HS2 Ltd; and disappointed that accurate data to enable planning is not always provided in a timely fashion.

She raised considerable concerns over traffic in Banbury, and how there were no real figures available to understand the impact on Junction 11 of the M40 and roads such as Hennef Way.

Victoria highlighted issues in Wardington, explaining that the village would suffer from the regular HGV traffic through its centre. Local people would then use roads through Williamscot, Cropredy, Great Bourton and Little Bourton, to avoid the additional traffic on the A361.  Specifically, she asked that the large amount of spoil which HS2 Ltd are planning to drive through the area, instead be taken up the line itself on a specially constructed road.

Finally, Victoria took the opportunity to highlight the concerns of Mixbury.  She said how important the countryside is to all of us, and asked for a noise barrier along the Mossy Bank bridleway.

Speaking after her presentation, Victoria said “I was very grateful for the opportunity to stand up for North Oxfordshire. I made very clear to those present that transport was already a problem – and showed them last week’s Banbury Guardian in order to confirm it.

I was very pleased that the HS2 Ltd’s Counsel advised that they would be producing illustrative plans for Mixbury with greater detail of the proposed mitigation.  I pushed for changes to HGV movements around junction 11 and on the A361 too, and hope that HS2 vehicle numbers will be severely restricted, and stopped on Saturdays.

I have stressed the need for open and regular communication between HS2 Ltd and the constituency, and will continue to represent constituents’ views.”

MP opens South Central Ambulance Service’s recruitment day

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Victoria opened the South Central Ambulance Service’s recruitment day on Saturday 16th January, with Chief Executive Will Hancock, at the Talisman Road HQ in Bicester.

The event, which ran from 10am to 2pm, gave people the chance to find out what jobs are currently available, and chat to existing staff employed at SCAS. There were also live demonstrations and vehicles on site.

Victoria said “The recruitment day was brilliant. I have visited the Headquarters on Talisman Road twice previously, and have seen just how rewarding and demanding the response team’s work is. I was keen to see what jobs were available too. We are very fortunate to have a strong and committed Ambulance Service team, which supports thousands of people across the area. I believe over 400 people attended the event, and around 50% have either applied for or requested applications for jobs that were advertised. That’s a fantastic uptake, and I really hope we see a number of new recruits working for the service soon.”

VICTORIA VISITS AGGREGATE INDUSTRIES IN BICESTER

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On Monday 11th January Victoria visited local concrete firm in Bicester.

The plant at Bicester has been operational since the 1980s, including the last 12 years as part of Aggregate Industries. It supplies a wide range of standard and specialist concrete mixes across the constituency, and further afield including Oxford, Buckingham and Aylesbury.

After the visit, Victoria commented “It is so interesting to be able to see the variety of mixes on site. Bicester is developing into a Garden Town and growing at a great pace, with thousands of houses being built in the coming years. Having a variety of different industries and jobs available in the area, will make it that much more desirable a place to live. Thank you to everyone at Aggregate Industries for allowing me to visit, and for explaining more about what is done at Bicester.

MPS AND FUNDRAISERS JOIN VICTORIA AT FLAGSHIP ‘SINGING FOR SYRIANS’ CAROL CONCERT

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On Tuesday 15 December, almost 300 people came to St Margaret’s Church, Westminster to sing carols to raise money for the Hands Up Foundation and Christian Aid. The Singing for Syrians flagship concert was organised by Victoria Prentis MP who has spent the past few months encouraging people to organise their own event, or to pass around a bucket at a pre-planned carol concert.

The flagship concert featured readings from ITV Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks, Dickensian actor Sir Timothy Ackroyd and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP. There were also solo performances from MPs including Andrea Jenkyns, Bernard Jenkin, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Will Quince. Oxford East and Abingdon MP, Nicola Blackwood impressed the audience with her rendition of popular Christmas carol, “Silent Night”. The St Margaret’s choir also performed a variety of pieces including John Rutter’s Sans Day Carol. Robert Buckland QC MP, Ben Gummer MP, Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP and Rt. Hon. Caroline Spelman MP also sang in the choir.

Earlier on in the day, Mr Speaker kindly hosted a reception in his State Rooms at Westminster Palace to thank all those involved with getting Singing for Syrians off the ground.

Victoria said: “Both the lunch and concert on Tuesday were fantastic. I am very lucky to have had so much support from colleagues, and am so grateful to all those who performed so brilliantly. Singing for Syrians crystallised as an idea after I attended the Westminster Hall vigil for the refugees in September and I started thinking about all those who are unable to even contemplate leaving the country. Often they are too old, too young or too unwell to leave. Our two charities are doing some really important work in the country and the surrounding region. Hands Up Foundation pay the salaries of the medical team in Aleppo. The money goes directly to the three doctors, two nurses and two porters who are providing vital assistance to those in need in Syria’s largest city. I felt quite overwhelmed, and exhausted, at the end of the day. Sadly, I think the need will be even greater next year. I hope people will continue to organise their own Singing for Syrians concerts in the coming months.

Everything raised through Singing for Syrians will be match funded by the Department for International Development. So far Victoria’s initiative has raised almost £60,000.

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MP VISITS NEW SHOPPING PARK AT BANBURY GATEWAY

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On Saturday 5 December, Victoria joined retailers, local dignitaries and Banbury residents at the official opening of Banbury Gateway Shopping Park. The event took place in Ed’s Diner, one of 14 leading high street shops which have opened in Banbury’s newest shopping park. Victoria spoke about issues surrounding recruitment and parking, and welcomed several new brands to Banbury, which she said would complement the brilliant variety of business already operating in the town.

The opening coincided with Banbury Gateway’s ‘My Wild Winter’ event, which saw a day of free activities at the shopping park, as well as discounts and offers in the shops. Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust were there to educate shoppers on how to look after local wildlife this winter, and Victoria tried her hand at outdoor ice-sculpting. ‘My Wild Winter’ was organised by The Crown Estate (the owners of the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park) and the Wildlife Trust in order to help promote wildlife and nature at its shopping parks.

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VICTORIA VISITS BICESTER HEALTH AND WELLBEING CENTRE

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Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, visited the Health and Wellbeing Centre in Bicester on Friday 27th November. Victoria was given a personal tour of the facility and met with many of the dedicated volunteers and those who use the services there. She saw first-hand how the Centre is used by people of all ages and abilities as a place of rehabilitation and for socialising.

Oxfordshire County Council is consulting on a number of proposals, linked to efforts to make significant savings in its budget. Many concerns have been raised over the potential closure of the Centre, which was described by one user as a ‘lifeline’. Victoria has met with the Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Hudspeth, to discuss these issues further. The consultation on this issue is now closed, and an update is expected in December. More details can be found at the following website: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/budget-201617

Following the visit, Victoria commented: “The Centre offers a number of vital support services to the local community. It provides those who are most vulnerable with a source of companionship and practical support. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and commitment of those who work and volunteer at the Centre. I am proud to have such a place in my constituency.”

 “I am determined that the needs of those who rely on the Centre will be met, and hope a solution can be found which allows the Centre to remain. I will continue to monitor this matter closely.”

SCHOOLS CELEBRATE DEBATING IN FIRST CHERWELL DEMOCRACY CHALLENGE WITH MP AND COUNCIL LEADER

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On Friday 20th November six schools from across the Cherwell district competed in a debating contest, at Cherwell District Council, to celebrate democracy as part of Parliament Week.

The schools – Banbury Academy, Gosford Hill School, Sibford School, The Cooper School, The Warriner School, and Tudor Hall School – competed in two rounds on local and national issues. Teams were judged by local councillors and members of Cherwell’s Democratic Services team.

The teams from each school were as follows:

Banbury Academy Dellen Attwood

Amy Degg

Will Pascoe

Callum Scobie

Gosford Hill School Maryellen McBride

Alice Bickmore

Alohan Chudry

Robert Sanson

Sibford School Finn Ridley

George Lindsay

Julia Beaumont

William Edmonds

The Cooper School Chris Guttridge

Niall Murphy

Joel Reynolds

Ben Stoddart

The Warriner School Will Thompson

Nimrah Sharif

Kit Lamb

Ellie Gordon

Tudor Hall School Greta Scott

Georgina Woodward

Lucinda Mills

Harriet Hope

After scoring was over and the two finalists were announced, the remaining schools participated in a ‘Question Time’ style event with local representatives. The students had the opportunity to put questions to Victoria, Councillor Barry Wood, Paul Angus (Managing Director of Banbury Sound), and Councillor Barry Richards. Questions focussed on international security and terrorism.

The Question Time event

The Question Time event

The two final teams were The Cooper School against Tudor Hall. The teams competed in the Council Chamber, where all other teams were able to observe and intervene when appropriate. Locally elected Councillors were also invited to join this session. The motion was “This House believes that only clever young people have a right to learn.”

The final was judged by a panel comprising Victoria, Councillor Barry Wood, and Anita Higham. The panel’s vote constituted 60% of the final score, with 40% coming from a ballot of students in the audience. Finally, the winners were announced as The Cooper School team – Chris Guttridge, Niall Murphy, Joel Reynolds, and Ben Stoddart.

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Victoria commented “it was lovely to watch these very talented young people in action today – a privilege in fact. I was impressed with the determination and commitment I saw, and the willingness to take on board feedback that was given throughout the day.”

 

“The two finalists led a very impressive debate, equalling one another with regard to drive, persuasiveness, style, and clarity. It really was the vote from the audience that decided the winner – no truer a sign of democracy in action. I cannot wait to meet more students at next year’s event!”

 

Councillor Barry Wood addressing students

Councillor Barry Wood addressing students

 

Councillor Barry Wood, as Leader of Cherwell District Council, commented: “Cherwell District Council is proud to have been part of the Cherwell Democracy Challenge alongside our MP. We look forward to organising the challenge again next year. It was inspiring to watch the young people push themselves and showcase their debating skills. I was grateful to have the chance to judge the final teams; but want to also extend a thank you and well done directly to each young person who participated – you were all very impressive.”

VICTORIA ENCOURAGES ‘SINGING FOR SYRIANS’ FUNDRAISING CAROL CONCERTS

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Victoria Prentis, the Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, is encouraging people around the UK to come together and sing to help support the people of Syria in their desperate time of need.

Victoria has been working with the artist, George Butler, to organise a nationwide series of carol concerts this Christmas to raise money for Christian Aid and the Hands Up Foundation, of which Mr Butler is a trustee. Both organisations are currently involved in aid relief in Syria, where the conflict has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. As the violence continues and winter descends, the needs of the millions of Syrians forced to flee their homes will only intensify.

Singing for Syrians is a new initiative encouraging individuals, churches and communities from across the UK to come together and host fundraising carol concerts to help people whose lives have been torn apart by the terrible conflict. Basil Eastwood, the former Ambassador to Syria, has championed the concept.

The funds raised will be used to help Christian Aid and the Hands Up Foundation meet the urgent and ongoing needs of Syrians affected by the devastating conflict. Working through partner organisations inside Syria, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Iraq, this support includes providing emergency food, water and sanitation, as well as education programmes, psychosocial support for women and children, and support for medical teams inside Syria. During the bitter winter months refugee families will receive much needed blankets, warm clothing, food stoves and fuel for cooking.

Speaking about Singing for Syrians, Victoria Prentis MP said: “Before I was elected, I found that carol concerts were a great way to raise money while having a good sing.  It therefore seemed obvious to me that concerts would be a good way to raise money for the most desperate people who remain in Syria.

I am particularly concerned about the elderly and those with poor health, who are too weak to contemplate leaving the country. Hands Up and Christian Aid are doing some great work on the ground in Syria and the surrounding countries. Singing for Syrians provides a brilliant opportunity to raise funds for these charities to help these people. Whether you pass around a bucket at an already planned carol concert, organise your own event from scratch, or come to the St Margaret’s concert on 15 December, I really hope people will get behind this initiative.”

Organisers of Singing for Syrians concerts around the UK will be invited to a special carol concert in St Margaret’s Church, in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, on 15th December. Tickets are available via Biletto with a suggested donation of £10. There will also be a private reception at Speaker’s House.

Members of the public are invited to contact singingforsyrians@gmail.com to receive a free ‘How To’ pack full of ideas on how to organise your own concert, and for any other enquiries.

If you would like further information please contact George Butler at singingforsyrians@gmail.com or call 07789 713 115.

MP WELCOMES NEW TRAIN LINK FOR OXFORDSHIRE

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On Monday 26 October, Victoria Prentis joined the Prime Minister and other Oxfordshire MPs at the opening of Chiltern Railways’ new line between Oxford and London. The service will run on the first new rail link between a major British city and London in over 100 years, and has cost £320 million. The huge infrastructure project has seen the construction of one new station – Oxford Parkway – while two other stations have been completely rebuilt, including Bicester’s renamed ‘Bicester Village’ station.

Victoria travelled between Bicester Village and Oxford Parkway for the ceremony at which David Cameron officially opened the line, describing it as “an historic moment” for Oxfordshire. Victoria and the Prime Minister then took the train to London Marylebone via Bicester. With two new fast trains per hour throughout the day between Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village station and London Marylebone, the line has been widely welcomed by residents of Oxford and North Oxfordshire.

Speaking after the opening ceremony, Victoria said, “I am thrilled that Oxfordshire was the county to benefit from this investment. This new route will be a fantastic boost for North Oxfordshire too. Not only will local people be able to get to London more quickly and conveniently, but the line will enable many more tourists and visitors to travel between London, Oxford and Bicester Village.

“This level of infrastructure investment is great for our area, and I thank Chiltern Railways for their work.  I know Bicester residents will be glad the work is complete, and will see the benefits of this investment in Bicester in the years to come.”

 

VICTORIA SPEAKS AT BLISS EVENT TO LAUNCH 2015 BABY REPORT

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Victoria Prentis MP attended Bliss’ parliamentary event on Tuesday 20 October 2015 and spoke about the importance of support for parents. The reception was organised by Bliss, the special care baby charity, to launch Bliss baby report 2015: hanging in the balance. The report covers a range of topics including the supply of neonatal nurses and doctors and availability of psychological and emotional support for parents.

In particular, the report found that at 41 per cent of units parents do not have access to a trained mental health worker, despite parents of premature and sick babies being at far greater risk of postnatal depression. Moreover, one third of units were not able to provide overnight accommodation for parents of critically ill babies or those living many miles from the hospital. It is vital that parents are able to stay close to their baby as research shows that when parents are involved in their baby’s care, it improves their development and recovery, and eases the pressure on health professionals.

Bliss is now calling for urgent action from the Government, the NHS and health education bodies to address these issues and ensure neonatal units have the resources they need to meet national standards for quality and safety.

Speaking after the event, Victoria said: “An estimated 168 vulnerable babies are born premature or sick to parents in Banbury every year, and many more women with difficult pregnancies and births are transferred to the Radcliffe. Bliss has put together an interesting report which highlights some very important issues. Personally, I am very concerned about psychological support for parents.  Approximately 40 percent of mothers with a premature baby suffer from post-natal depression, compared to 5 to 10 percent of those who have a healthy baby. It is vital that all babies have the best possible chance in life, and that their families get all the support they need during what is an extremely difficult time.

 

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