WHILE Bob Johnston is no stranger to local government corridors of power, he likes to keep a close eye on his own backyard.

And for more than 30 years he has been documenting news and issues from the Radley ward he represents.

The Vale of White Horse district councillor is celebrating 31 years on the Vale council by putting out his 150th newsletter.

The Liberal Democrat councillor’s first newsletter was published in October 1981, and was then called the Hormer Herald, after the now-defunct county council Hormer division.

Then, after several years, it was renamed Radley Focus magazine, and at least four issues a year have come out ever since.

Father-of-one Mr Johnston, 68, lives with wife Pam, 64, in Kennington Road, Kennington.

He said: “The newsletter is delivered to all the people in the Radley ward, with a distribution total of about 1,000.

“It’s a long-standing tradition among Liberal Democrats to put out these community magazines and when I started out I never thought it would get this far.

“I shall carry on doing this for as long as I enjoy doing it and for as long as I am able.

“The newsletter has always featured at least four pages.

“When I first started the newsletter, I used to get several letters each time from residents, but now I get emails every day.

“The first ones were typed out then cut and pasted and now I use desktop publishing.

“It’s a great way of staying in touch with people in the area and when I knock on people’s doors they never tell me ‘we only hear from you at election time’.”

Mr Johnston was leader of the Vale council from 1997 to 2001 and has also been council chairman.

Mr Johnston said the Liberal Democrat Party funded his newsletter and it was delivered to people’s homes by volunteers. The Vale council’s magazine Unvaled was delivered three times a year until last year when it was scrapped to save £39,600 a year.

Favourite topics

  • Number 2: January 1982 – The weather was bad and snow clearance was a big issue
  • Number 5: March 1982 – Mr Johnston’s thank you to supporters for voting him in as a district councillor for the first time
  • Number 20: Summer 1985 – Where gravel should be dug in Oxfordshire
  • Number 39: Summer 1987 – Potholes were on the agenda
  • Number 58: Early 1991 – Mr Johnston campaigned against a plan to knock down the Bowyer Arms pub
  • Number 79: This 1995 edition celebrated Mr Johnston’s re-election and becoming the first non-Tory chairman of the Vale council
  • Number 103: In 1998 protecting the Green Belt was a big issue
  • Number 111: In 2005 the poor state of the village roads was highlighted
  • Number 119: In 2006, the campaign against dumping ash in Radley Lakes was hotting up
  • Number 140: In 2010, the threat to Oxfordshire’s Green Belt was again on the agenda.