John Redwood MP

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New Legal Powers to Help Prevent Flooding

Wokingham Borough Council now has new legal powers to help prevent flooding across the borough, following its successful application to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to make land drainage byelaws.

Wokingham Borough Council has published the following press release:

New Legal Powers to Help Prevent Flooding

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 allows local authorities to make land drainage byelaws to help regulate changes to flows in watercourses, manage obstructions and vegetation, and repair damage to river banks, among others.

Failure to adhere to these bylaws in the Wokingham Borough is now a criminal offence which can be prosecuted in magistrates’ courts. This will help the borough council carry out its duties as a highway authority and also as the lead local flood authority.

“The risk of flooding and the impact of new major developments are matters of concern to very many residents and businesses in our borough,” said Josie Wragg, interim director of environment at Wokingham Borough Council.

“Although we always try to persuade those who don’t act responsibly to rectify problems, it will be useful to have these powers if action is ignored.”

Wokingham Borough’s specific byelaws give the borough council control over land within eight metres either side from the bank of a ditch. This will prevent development, or any features and structures, from being put too close to the ditch. This will allow the council to protect the natural flood plain, create a ‘buffer zone’ for biodiversity, and stop properties from flooding.

A six-week public consultation was held last year before the council’s application to DEFRA to make sure the views of residents were taken into account.

A copy of the confirmed byelaws can be found on the flooding webpage, under ‘useful information and websites’ section, on the borough council’s website: www.wokingham.gov.uk/community-and-safety/emergencies/drainage-and-flooding/

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Additional UK government borrowing continues to reduce

The latest figures for UK government borrowing show it ended the most recent financial year to March at £52 bn, a little below the March 2016 forecast. It confirms that the UK economy has done well over the last year, bringing in extra tax revenues from growth to pay more of the bills for public services.  Total state debt stood at 86.6% of GDP on the official definition. If we adjust this for the debt the Bank of England has bought up, the figure falls to 65%.

This level of additional borrowing shows the recovery from the extreme levels of additional debt at the end of the last decade has gone reasonably well, though a bit slower than the original plans in 2010. These figures exclude future state pension liabilities, as they also exclude future tax contributions to pay for those pensions on the pay as you go model all governments have operated. The figures do now include the debts of Network Rail, guaranteed by the government, which the Labour government classified as private sector debt.

There is no need to raise taxes from here to reduce the deficit further. A bit more growth will be the best way of cutting borrowing, as more people get jobs reducing their need for benefits, and as more tax revenue comes in from the growing turnover of the economy.

The aim of policy should be to boost productivity and output by encouraging entrepreneurship, and ensuring government is run more efficiently to assist in economic improvement.

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Letter to Marks and Spencers

I am following up my questions to you about the possible closure of the Wokingham store after hearing the views of more of my constituents.

 There is a general feeling amongst those interested in the issue that we would like Marks and Spencer to stay in the town. The Town Centre as you know is currently undergoing a substantial redevelopment to make it a more attractive retail centre with more floorspace. Wokingham Borough is expanding with four major new sites for additional housing, including two nearby in Wokingham itself. New residents will need good shops.  The Borough expects these changes to generate more footfall in Wokingham centre. The area around the Marketplace is a great setting for shopping, with a rich diversity of places to have a coffee or buy a meal. The Town actively promotes itself with a calendar of events designed to bring more people into the centre.

 Your sales figures and market research will of course inform your judgements about the retail offer that would work best for your business. There does seem to be more direct competition on food than on some of your standard textile lines which might have a bearing on how best to trade your current unit.

 I  would be happy to help find a way to keep it open to serve future Wokingham customers.

 

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The French election

We all mourn the death of a policeman in Paris. I send my condolences to his family.

The untimely death shortened the political campaigning, but could not derail the election.

Last  week-end French electors faced plenty of choice. The opinion polls held close to election day correctly predicted  that voting intentions were  very split, and many were still undecided. One of the most fascinating features of the polls was the collapse of support for the socialist party, the Labour party equivalent, and the difficulty for the Republican candidate, the Conservative equivalent, to catch up three others.

Whoever becomes President of France will not belong to either of the two traditional main parties. He or she did  not  gain more than one quarter of the votes on the first ballot. This means that the uncertainties created by such a wide open election will continue after we know who the President is. The Presidential election will  be followed by an election to the Parliament. If the Parliament votes are more strongly for the more traditional parties the new President will have limited powers and have to get on with a Prime Minister who does not agree on some big matters.

Mr Macron is the front runner to win in round two. A former socialist party Minister, he is now a reborn self styled centrist with a movement, not a political party. He might face a Parliament to his right. There could be clashes on economic reform and security. Were Mrs Le Pen to prove the pollsters wrong and emerge as the overall winner, she would probably face a Parliament to her left, with an inbuilt majority to keep France in the Euro and the EU when she wishes to leave.

It is a fascinating commentary on modern France that two of the top four candidates were outsiders, and one was an insider dressed up as an outsider. The only pure political establishment candidate was  damaged by his past use of public money to run his office. It implies that many French voters are unhappy with the terrorist attacks, the high unemployment, the lack of growth in living standards and the lack of control over their borders. Some  voted for a more left wing alternative who wants to take back control and go for more socialism in one country. Some  voted for the National front to leave the Euro and assert national borders. Some  voted for the independent who promises to do politics differently without being too precise how.

If the French people fail to give a decisive mandate to a new President, and then fail to give their President a decent level of support in Parliament, the anger and anguish will continue.

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