ENERGY PRICE CAP
People across Richmond Park and the rest of the UK will be facing an potentially unprecedented increase in their energy bills this winter. This week, the Liberal Democrats therefore proposed a bold and ambitious plan to address this issue, in the absence of a clear proposal from Government. The plan would save a typical household an extra £1,400 a year. The 70% increase in the energy price cap expected to be announced by Ofgem later this month would be cancelled, with the Government instead paying the shortfall to energy suppliers so that they can afford to supply customers at the current rates. This estimated £36 billion cost would be met by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas company profits, and using the Government’s higher-than-expected VAT revenues as a result of soaring inflation. When combined, these tax receipts would total over £50bn.
I have been sorely disappointed to see both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak refuse to put forward a clear proposal as to what they will do to help struggling families. Therefore, having already helped force the Government to u-turn on their refusal to enact the first windfall tax, the Liberal Democrats are again taking the initiative in proposing the bold action needed to combat this crisis. Time is of the essence to prevent an energy crisis for millions across the UK this winter.
CAMPAIGN: LONG LIVE THE LOCAL
This week, I was delighted to be named a Parliamentary Champion of the ‘Long Live the Local’ group.
This campaign, which relaunched to support the pub and brewing sector after the well-publicised challenges they faced during the pandemic, has been calling for reforms of three taxes:
A re-introduction of a lower level of VAT for food and beverages sold in pubs.
An overall reduction in beer duty and alcohol duty reforms that support British pubs and beer as a lower strength product.
Lower business rates for pubs equitable to other smaller businesses.
It is crucial that the Government listen to our calls for reform. Having written directly to the former Chancellor about this issue, you can see the response I received from here.
I am extremely proud to have been awarded this honour for working to support the hospitality sector. These issues have been the subject of significant correspondence from constituents over the previous months, and I want to assure all residents of Richmond Park that both as the local MP, and as the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, I will continue leading the way on this campaign.
I look forward to the South West London continuing to enjoy some of the best pubs and hospitality venues not only in London, but across the country.
VISIT TO THE TIDEWAY SUPER SEWER
I was pleased to be invited by Tideway to visit the Thames Tideway Tunnel today. The new sewer will run under the bed of the Thames for 16 miles from Barnes to Beckford. The 7.3m wide tunnel will be joined with the existing outflows into the Thames to capture and safely transport sewage to a treatment plant on the Thames Estuary. When the sewer becomes operational it will nearly eliminate sewage discharges into this portion of the Thames.
I was pleased to hear that all of the materials to build the tunnel - the concrete components, prebuilt sections and drilling equipment, were transported to their work sites by barge instead of by road. This prevented a negative impact on traffic in their operational areas, as well as reducing the environmental impact. This is an approach I would like to see more projects take.
The project employs as many local people as they can and runs an extensive apprenticeship programme. They have particularly invested in innovating in the areas of moving logistics and training programmes. Our hosts Ryan Moor and James Smith told us how keen they have been to learn from other major infrastructure projects and to share their own learnings with future project managers.
It was fascinating to go into the tunnel itself and see the work being done in and around the site. The initial drilling is now complete and work to line the tunnels and finish construction of the connections with existing sewers is proceeding simultaneously at a number of different sites along the tunnel.
I look forward to the cleaner river that London will have when it becomes operational, and will continue to investigate how we can stop sewage flows into the river further upstream as well.
GRASS FIRES IN PARKS
It was tragic to see the pictures of the fire in Bushy Park this week. London has just been through one of the driest Julys on record and we are getting ready for another heatwave over the weekend. I was appalled to discover that this most recent blaze may have been set intentionally.
In light of the dangers posed by wildfires, I have written to the London Fire Brigade to discuss whether emergency alarms and early warning systems could be set up in remote areas of the constituency's parks to ensure that firefighters can reach incidents before they get out of hand. You can find further information on the fire here. London Fire Brigade has shared these grass fire prevention tips:
Don’t drop cigarettes or anything that is burning on dry ground
Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows, they may land on dry grass by the roadside
Don't have barbecues in parks and public spaces
Never leave camp fires or barbecues on private property unattended and extinguish them properly after you have finished using them
Position your barbecue on level ground and keep it well away from anything that may catch fire (sheds, fences, trees, tents etc.)
Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland
If you’re barbecuing near dry grass, have a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergency use
Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires, especially in busy parks or public spaces
My constituents with children will be keen to know that all children aged 1 to 9 years in London are being offered a polio vaccination. This comes following the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The NHS will contact you to ask you to book an appointment for your child’s polio vaccine.
Type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus has been found in sewage in north and east London, and whilst no one has been diagnosed with polio, the booster will ensure a high level of protection and will help prevent further spread of the virus. For some children this may be an extra dose on top of their routine vaccinations. In other children it may bring them up to date with their routine vaccinations. The vaccine being used is the same inactivated poliovirus vaccine as normally given as part of the standard polio immunisation schedule. This is the only vaccine used against polio in the UK.
The vaccination programme will initially begin in north and east London where the poliovirus has been detected. This will be followed by rollout across all boroughs. It is not yet clear when the vaccination programme will reach residents here. Please do not contact health services regarding the polio booster; you will be contacted as soon as the vaccine is ready for your child.
I encourage my constituents with children to accept this vaccine when offered to strengthen their protection against the poliovirus. For more information on Polio, visit the NHS webpage.
RAIL STRIKES With unions and rail companies still at an impasse over pay and working conditions, union leaders have announced that rail strikes will be taking place tomorrow, and on Thursday 18th and Saturday 20th. Residents should also be aware that there will be a tube strike on Friday 19th, as well as a bus strike on the 19th and 20th. SWR, Network Rail, and TfL are advising against all but essential travel on these days and have warned that disruption could continue onto strike days.
It is both worrying and frustrating that the Government appears to have made no contingency plan for this crisis. They must push the unions and the rail companies back to the negotiating table before London grinds to a halt yet again. You can read more about the planned strikes here.
I am pleased to let all residents know that our local Community First Responders from Kingston, Richmond and Croydon were presented with the Platinum Jubilee medals by Steve Pyne from London Ambulance Service last week.
To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, this special commemorative medal is being awarded to serving frontline members of the police, fire, emergency services, prison services and the Armed Forces.
Community First Responders all over London volunteer in their spare time. They are trained to attend certain types of emergency calls in the area where they live or work. Their aim is to reach a potential life threatening emergency in the first vital minutes and assist the patient until the ambulance crew arrives.
On behalf of all my constituents I congratulate the Community First Responders below on receiving their medals and thank them for their service.
COUNCIL EXTENDS ENERGY REBATE
Richmond Council has announced an extension of its Energy Rebate Scheme, to make sure people get help with the rising cost of energy bills. This is an extension of the Government’s £150 Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme, which was launched in March this year. It has been designed by the Council to meet the additional needs of local people in Richmond upon Thames, making at least 2,000 more people eligible for a £150 cash payment that does not need to be repaid.
There are four different groups who are eligible for the Discretionary Scheme. Two of these groups are:
Properties in council tax bands E-H, where residents are liable for council tax and in receipt of benefits
Properties in council tax bands E-H, where residents are exempt from paying council tax for one of the following reasons - students; occupied only by severely mentally impaired; occupied only by persons under the age of 18; annex occupied by dependent relative
As the Council already holds the details of these residents, we will make payment straight away or write directly to these groups with instructions for how to apply.
There are also a number of people who are unknown to the Council who are eligible. These include:
Properties in council tax bands A-D, where the residents do not pay council tax (e.g. council tax is included in the rent) but they do have responsibility for paying the energy bills
Properties in council tax bands E-H, where the residents do not pay council tax, but are in receipt of benefits and have responsibility for paying the energy bills.
The Discretionary Energy Rebate Scheme will close to applications on 31 October 2022. The Council is urging people who think they are eligible to check for more information here.
NEW GARDEN SPACE ON RICHMOND RIVERSIDE
Local residents are invited to head down to Whittaker Avenue in Richmond town centre on Saturday 13th of August from 1pm, for the grand opening of a stunning new pop-up garden space. Whittaker Avenue will be transformed into a vibrant and engaging outdoor space, free for public use, from 13th August.
Saturday's launch event will feature a ribbon cutting, free prosecco, walk-about acts including living flower girls, a live DJ, a gin and prosecco bar and games and entertainment for families and children. A stunning central flower arch will guide you from Hill Street through to the garden, with views of the river beyond.
This new destination will become a hub of activity within Richmond town centre, with the garden also featuring a stage open to local performers and other various events. The Whittaker Avenue Garden will open on 13th August 2022 and remain in place for a 22 weeks as the seasons change.
COUNCIL AWARDED FUNDING FOR SAFER STREETS
A cross-borough partnership led by Kingston Council has received almost £200,000 from the Home Office’s Safer Streets funding initiative to continue its innovative work to tackle violence against women and girls in South West London.
The partnership, made up of Kingston, Richmond, Merton and Wandsworth councils and the Met Police unit for South West London, will adopt a whole-system approach to tackling the issue. This includes delivering training to night time economy businesses, breaking down barriers to seeking support by raising awareness of local and national services, and providing bystander training and education.
STRONGER PROTECTION FOR HIGH STREET SHOPS
More extensive planning controls to protect shops from being converted into housing has been confirmed and will take effect from 1 August 2022. These controls mean that a planning application will need to be submitted to convert any commercial space or shop into housing, in key areas in the borough. A consultation took place last year, in which a clear majority supported the protection of Kingston’s commercial spaces, and a report was taken to the council’s Place Committee, In November. The council is has said that the planning control, called an Article 4 Direction, came into effect on 1 August 2022.
Cheerful creativity from workers at the Thames Tideway Tunnel!