By Monday, the country will know who their next Prime Minister will be. Whether it is Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, they will have a monumental task ahead of them. With the rising cost of living, runaway inflation, and the effects of the war in Ukraine to contend with, I know that all sides from across the political aisle hope that they have a plan to support our country through the winter.
Parliament comes back into session next week and before the House sits, I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss my national and local priorities over the next few months.
COST OF LIVING SUPPORT
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, the rising cost of energy bills is something that I have received numerous emails and letters about from my constituents. This has included several emails from local businesses, that are not subject to an energy cap, with some facing closure as their bills rise by almost 400%.
This week, I was proud that in addition to our policy to support household energy costs, the Liberal Democrats announced a further proposal to support small businesses with the rising costs of energy. Our scheme would offer grants of up to £50,000 to shops, pubs, restaurants and all small and medium enterprises to help them cope with the impending challenges they face this winter.
Our plan would see small and medium-sized businesses offered government grants covering 80% of the increase in their energy bills for one year, up to the maximum of £50,000. For example, a typical small restaurant would receive a grant of around £10,000 to help with their bills. The plans would benefit the 1.4 million small businesses across the UK, from high street shops to local pubs and cafes. The estimated £10 billion cost of the scheme could be met by reversing the Conservatives’ planned tax cuts for big banks, which are seeing their profits grow with rising interest rates. That would include cancelling the Government’s cut to the Bank Surcharge that is due to take effect in April 2023 and restoring the Bank Levy to 2015 levels, raising £10.6 billion over the next four years.
I know the issue of rising bills is playing on the minds of everyone in the constituency, and I, therefore, wanted to highlight the recently launched Richmond Council and Kingston Council cost of living hub, where you can find advice and support going forward. You can access the Richmond Hub here and the Kinston Hub here. Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TACKLING DISPOSAL OF RAW SEWAGE
I am extremely concerned about the environmental damage caused by the repeated disposal of raw sewage into UK rivers and lakes and onto our coastlines. Following a drastic increase in such instances of raw sewage disposal over the Summer, I will be working alongside my Liberal Democrat colleagues to press the Government to strengthen legislation so that water companies can be properly held to account. The Lib Dems have previously called for a Sewage Tax to be imposed on sewage-dumping water companies who made over £2.8 billion in profit. We also backed amendments to the Environment Bill to end sewage discharges and will continue to look for further opportunities to force the Government to take action.
This Thursday, I have been selected to ask an oral question to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during their departmental questions session in Parliament. I intend to voice the concerns that constituents have raised to me and call for tougher measures to crack down on the repeated dumping of raw sewage. We have needed tougher regulations on sewage dumping for years now and I have made repeated calls on the government, you can view some of my previous work here.
SUPPORTING LOCAL POLICING
Many residents have contacted me to share their concern that they feel crime levels are rising in the constituency. Richmond Park remains one of the safest places to live in London, but I am in constant communication with representatives from the police services to ensure that officers are able to do their job safely and effectively. Despite years of Conservative government cuts and increasing local demand, the police have done an admirable job protecting residents, but they cannot keep being asked to do more with less.
In the coming months, I will be supporting the police in their recruitment drive and holding the Government to account by ensuring that the police are sufficiently funded to achieve recruitment targets. The Conservatives have turned a blind eye towards some aspects of crime for far too long, and earlier this year Boris Johnson was criticised by the ONS for excluding ‘fraud and computer misuse’ from overall crime statistics to make it appear as though crime levels were going down. Instances of fraud and computer misuse surged during the lockdown and this Autumn, I will be working on legislation in Parliament to strengthen measures to tackle fraud and protect consumers. On a local level, I will also continue engaging with council officers, public service providers, and the police force themselves to ensure that all sides are working together to keep the public safe.
The new TfL funding deal has committed nearly £3.6 billion to London's infrastructure and finally broken the months of deadlock surrounding TfL's future. Within this deal, the Department for Transport has restated its commitment to providing one-third of the cost of the strengthening works and to helping TfL fund its share of the works.
In the coming months, we expect the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to decide on which of the two proposed options for the Bridge's strengthening works it will carry out as well as come to a decision on whether a toll is necessary to cover their share of the cost. Before these decisions are made, my work will revolve around ensuring that Richmond Park's residents are not simply pushed to the side in all negotiations. I will continue to call for a meeting of the Task Force, keep fighting for open lines of communication, and press the government and LBHF to commence work as soon as possible now that TfL's funding is secure. You can read more about TfL's funding deal and how it affects the bridge here.
CHALLENGING HEATHROW OVER NIGHT FLIGHTS
The summer holiday season showed Londoners the flaws in the aviation sector. Lengthy delays, rescheduled flights, and chaos at Heathrow meant that over the summer, many residents were kept awake until well past midnight by delayed flights flying overhead, only to be awoken at 4:30 am by the first arrivals of the day.
When Heathrow fails, it is our community that suffers. While my opposition to the Heathrow 3rd runway is well known, I am also committed to securing a full ban on all scheduled flights coming into and out of Heathrow between 11 pm and 6 am. Seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is not an unreasonable request. The government and aviation sector must work together to deliver residents a quiet night's sleep.
To raise awareness of this issue, I am asking residents to share their stories and experiences of living with the noise and disturbance caused by night flights. If you have been disturbed over the summer or before, please email me at email@example.com or get in touch with the link here.
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT: SUPPORTING THE HONG KONGER COMMUNITY
A major issue that many newly arrived Hong Kongers are facing is that while they are experienced professionals, some with decades of experience, many of their professional accreditations are not recognised in the UK. More than 20% of recent arrivals have been rejected from roles due to what is in many cases, an administrative issue. For this reason, I have written to the Department for Work and Pensions to request that they work with professional bodies and private sector companies, to develop a streamlined system that will allow Hong Kongers to enter the job market quickly and efficiently.
A second concern that residents have raised with me is the loss of Cantonese education in schools. While £50 million has been invested into the teaching of Mandarin, Cantonese has fallen out of favour in the British education system. Many members of the Hong Konger community are concerned that without the chance to learn Cantonese at GCSE and A-Level, their children will lose this skill and a vital part of their heritage will be lost. To combat this issue, I have contacted the Secretary of State for Education to request that schools and exam boards offer students a choice when taking their exams. While undoubtedly, Mandarin will grow in prominence in British schools, as the vast majority of new arrivals from China will be Hong Kongers, the government must be ready for increased demand to learn Cantonese.
As Hong Kong falls further under the control of the Central Government in Beijing, it is more important than ever that we remain aware and informed of the situation in the city. I would urge you to learn more by clicking the link here.
This week, I met with the Royal Mail Team at Mortlake sorting office. During this meeting, we discussed issues relating to the early closure of post office front desks, the role of postmen and postwomen in the community, and the changes their team have seen over the last 20 years. It was wonderful to meet a group of people who have such an obvious passion for their role and who have spent decades serving their local area.
Earlier this afternoon, I joined the Kew society, Cllr. Julia Cambridge, the Mayor of Richmond, Cllr. Nancy Baldwin, Spokesperson for Communities and the Voluntary Sector, as well as representatives from NGOs and local residents to help launch the Kew circular walk map. This initiative was funded by Richmond Council's local area fund and is designed to attract tourists to the whole of Kew rather than just the Royal Botanical Gardens with the aim to, in part, support local shops across the neighbourhood.
BRITE BOX CELEBRATION EVENING
BRITE Box is holding a celebration evening on Friday 23 September from 6-8 pm to share an update on the progress of the project and to thank their supporters and amazing volunteer team. The initiative is a recipe meal kit which helps to address food insecurity but also aims to bring families together around food, inspiring and encouraging children to enjoy cooking and fostering a healthy relationship with food from a young age.
If you are interested in finding out more about the project and getting involved as a volunteer, supplier or partner I would encourage you to go along and meet their team. There will be short presentations, the opportunity to ask questions about the project, and a chance to catch up over drinks and canapes. You can register for the event here.
Music, dance and theatre return to the park at Marble Hill House park throughout September. The historic home, which has been beautifully restored by English Heritage, will be the backdrop for a wonderful programme of events this Sunday including live performances from Boundless Dance, RISE and Combination Dance as well as Shelle Luscomb. Next Sunday will see Pop in the Park taking centre stage with performances by PowerJam, Jazz Perrin Collective, and Ignite Me Theatre. The festival will come to a finale on Sunday, September 18th, with Classics in the Park, which will see performances from Richmond Shakespeare Society, Richmond Community Choir, Marble Hill Dance School and Shelle Luscomb.
The events will all take place from 2 to 3.30 pm each Sunday. You can find more information about Richmond Live here.
VACCINATIONS BEFORE WINTER
Only 13% of 5-11-year-olds in Richmond are vaccinated against COVID-19. The virus has not gone away and cases are likely to rise significantly this winter. As health services are placed under further pressure by soaring energy costs, I would urge all parents to vaccinate their children before they return to school. While the risk posed to 5 - 11-year-olds is low, the contact they have with other children could mean you get exposed and vaccination is one of the best ways to reduce this risk. You can find your nearest walk-in vaccination clinic through the link here.
From Sunday 5th to Saturday 11th, Officers from the Metropolitan Police service will be in Memorial Square, Kingston speaking to any member of the public who is interested in learning more about a career in the Met.
They are looking for people from all backgrounds, with diverse skills and experiences to join; so that they can better represent communities across London. If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining the police and receiving a fully funded BSc (Hons) or graduate diploma in Professional Policing practices, I would urge you to visit their stall between 11 am and 4 pm any day next week. You can learn more about a career in the Met police here.
The aim of the Harvest Festival 2022 is to celebrate the bringing together of ESEA (East and Southeast Asian) cultures and educate people about authentic experiences or traditions they might not already know about. The event will include food stalls, traditional dance, storytelling, a Kpop competition, a traditional clothing fashion show, and martial arts demonstrations. There will be various souvenir stalls for handmade products and crafts from Hong Kong and Korea in addition to Chinese, Hong Kong and Korean street food.
The event will be held on Saturday 10th September from 11:45 am - 4 pm and will take place in Jubilee Square, KT3 4AH.