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Richmond Park News: 14 July 2023

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

PUBLIC SECTOR PAY AWARDS


The Government announced yesterday that it has accepted the recommendations of the Public Pay Review Bodies. As a result, around one million public sector workers, including teachers, police and doctors, have been offered pay rises of between 5% and 7%. There will be no new borrowing or spending to fund these pay rises, which means that Departments will instead have to find the money by reprioritising within existing budgets and driving further efficiencies.


I know that many parents and teachers across Richmond Park will be relieved that the threat of more school strikes has gone for now, and I welcome this pay boost for teaching staff. However, this deal could have been made months ago. Instead, children have faced months of disruption to their learning.


Additionally, much more work needs to be done to end the crisis in teacher retention, as this will not be solved through a pay rise alone. There are also outstanding questions around which cuts will have to be made to funded these pay rises from existing budgets. The government has confirmed that schools will pay 3.5pp of the increase. Yet headteachers tell me that their budgets are already extremely stretched and they’ve having to cut staff and classroom resources. It is also unclear which cuts the Department for Education will make to fund the rest of the pay award.



ILLEGAL MIGRATION BILL

Many constituents have written to me to share their concern about the Conservative’s Illegal Migration Bill. This Bill will place a legal duty on the government to detain and remove anyone who arrives in the UK by unofficial routes, such as by crossing the channel in a boat, and to deny them the right to apply for asylum.

This Bill is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for the taxpayer. Nothing in this legislation will tackle the backlog of over 160,000 asylum seekers, or ensure that asylum claims are processed efficiently.

I joined my Liberal Democrat colleagues in voting 18 times in support of the Lords’ amendments to the Bill, which would go some way to ensuring that some protections remain for vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and victims of modern slavery. The Bill will now return to the Commons next week for another round of voting on the Lords’ amendments.


PLANS TO TRANSFORM THE ASLYUM SYSTEM

This week, I also questioned officials from the Home Office on their plans to transform the asylum system in my role as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. The chaos of the current asylum system is well-documented and I have seen first-hand just how long it takes to process each claim in my own casework assisting constituents with their applications.

Home Office officials informed the Committee of their plans to tackle two of the main challenges in the system – accommodation and the backlog of asylum cases. I asked how they would speed up the processing of asylum claims and increase productivity of caseworkers. I was pleased to hear that the Home Office are on track to reach recruitment targets to increase the number of caseworkers and that they are confident that can reduce the legacy backlog to zero by the end of this year. However, the challenges ahead remain considerable and I will keep a close eye on progress over the course of the next year.

A transcript of the PAC session is available online should you wish to read it.



SUICIDE RISK ASSESSMENT


On Tuesday, I paid tribute to Tom Pirie, son of Richmond Park constituent Philip PIrie. Tom tragically took his own life on that day three years ago. Since then, I have been supporting Philip on his campaign to improve suicide risk assessment procedure, in advance of the upcoming 10 Year Suicide Prevention Strategy Review. I spoke in Parliament on Tuesday to pay tribute to Tom’s life, and Philip’s work in his memory. I asked the Minister for Mental Health when we can expect that review to be published.



CHRIST CHURCH PRIMARY SCHOOL VISIT TO PARLIAMENT

On Wednesday, I met pupils with Christ Church New Malden Primary School as they came to do a visit to the Palace of Westminster organised through the Parliament Education Centre.

It is always fantastic to be able to meet local schools on their visits to Parliament. I was delighted to have many tough questions from the students, which certainly put me through my paces!

Should other local schools wish to come and visit Parliament, please contact the Education Centre.


Sarah speaking in the Chamber and Sarah speaking to Christchurch School pupils in Westminster Hall

RHACC LEARNER OF THE YEAR AWARDS


Last Friday I had the honour of presenting the Learner of the Year Awards at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College, joining learners, families and staff to celebrate the success and achievements of students in the College’s Queen Charlotte Hall.


The event, presided over by Principal Gabe Flint, saw learners and community partners awarded prizes for their commitment, endeavour and achievement in six specific categories, with the Learner of the Year Award presented to one of the nominees. This year's Learner of the Year was awarded to inspirational learner Anupa Tanna. Anupa has shown complete dedication to her learning. She is also a disability ambassador for Transport for London working to improve access to public transport for those with disabilities.


In my keynote speech I highlighted my belief in the in the power of education at every stage of life, recounting the positive impact my own experience as an adult learner had on my life. I thank Gabe and the whole staff at RHACC for their dedication to continuing education, and congratulate all of the nominees and winners on their achievements this year.



REGISTER FOR ONE OF MY SUMMER BRIEFING EVENTS!


Richmond Park constituents are invited to join me for one of my upcoming Summer Briefings. I will be holding these events around the constituency to engage with residents on local and national issues.


At each Briefing I will give a short update on my work in Parliament and share some of my priorities for the next year. I will give attendees an overview of my roles as the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Treasury and Business and a member of the Public Accounts Committee. I will also tell you about my work in the constituency on some of the local issues that residents write to me the most about.


I hope to spend most of the briefing, though, answering your questions and hearing your views about both national and local issues.


I am doing five Summer Briefings during the week of July 31, at the locations below. Attendance is free and open to all constituents, but attendees must register in advance on my website.


Summer briefing dates and places


THAMES WATER: TEDDINGTON RIVER ABSTRACTION I know that many of my residents in Ham and North Kingston have been increasingly worried about Thames Water's proposals to undertake substantial construction works on Ham Lands. This ill-conceived project would not only mean the temporary destruction of acres of parkland but also result in millions of litres of effluent a day being poured into the Thames. The project would be damaging to the unique ecology of Ham Lands, and does not represent a good deal for our neighbourhood. While I acknowledge that we need to do more to sure up water supplies over the coming decades, there are other options available that would not damage the environment to the same extent. For this reason, this week, I have put forward an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for ministers to acknowledge the threat this scheme presents and urging them to develop alternative schemes.



WORK EXPERIENCE WEEK


I have had the pleasure of having five pupils in my office this week doing work experience. I asked these impressive young people to share a few words about their week here:


"During the last four days, five of us have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do work experience with Sarah, both at Parliament and in her constituency office in Mortlake. It has been especially interesting to observe these contrasting sites and the difference between roles in more local politics compared to roles that are more involved in government policy. Furthermore, it has been a privilege not only to meet Sarah but her lovely staff who have been very supportive in setting us tasks to give us all a wealth of knowledge about the roles and responsibilities of working for an MP.


One really valuable experience we had was going to watch the debate surrounding the amendments made to the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which was particularly relevant given the amount of media coverage it has seen over the last few months. Being in Parliament and visiting both the House of Commons and the House of Lords was very engaging, especially since we were also given the chance to sit in on an APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) meeting about the prevention of suicide and self harm, particularly amongst young people. This was very compelling given that many of the topics discussed concerned our generation and the hope of creating more support for the mental health of young people in the future.


Of course, we were also lucky enough to be able to meet and have lunch with Sarah, who we all admire for her genuine devotion to her constituents and her engagement to the pressing topics that affect them. Additionally, we learnt about the plethora of skills and responsibilities required from Sarah's staff, not only in terms of campaigning and media, but also the amount of work Sarah and her team do to actively help their constituents and ensure their contentment and safety.


Each of us really enjoyed the experience as a whole and learnt lots, not only about how to write press releases and briefings through which we explored numerous topics - such as sewage in the Thames, free school meals and the ongoing protests in Iran - but also in the way that local government functions."


Gabriella, Hannah, Karl, Poppy and Thaneka



BARNES FAIR


I enjoyed a great day out last Saturday attending Barnes Fair. It was delightful to see so many residents out enjoying the day. Thank you to the hardworking organisers who put on this event, which benefits the community in so many different ways every year.


Sarah with work experience pupils outside Parliament and with councillors at Barnes Fair

HEATHROW NOISE ACTION PLAN For the past 6 weeks, Heathrow has been consulting on its new Noise Action Plan for 2024-2028. This scheme is nominally intended to limit and reduce the impact that the airport has on neighbouring communities and while there have been some good steps forward, the plan is a sticking plaster on a mortal wound. In each area, whether it is insulation, night flights, or their commitment to change the airport's operating pattern, they have fallen short of what they should be offering. However, the most serious issue with this plan is that it makes no mention of the airport's intention to reshape and 'modernise' flight paths starting in 2027. This will impact tens of thousands of Londoners and could mean a serious change to which residents are impacted by aircraft noise. Due to this, I would have expected Heathrow to at least reference these proposals in their long-term strategy, however, they have remained noticeably silent on the subject. I was very pleased to submit my response to the Noise Action Plan alongside Munira Wilson MP, Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, Cllr. Hina Bokhari AM, and Cllr. Andreas Kirsch, leader of Kingston Council.

SEAL WELFARE Following the success of my recent debate on seal welfare, I had the opportunity this week to continue raising the profile of this vital topic in the media. On Saturday, I provided a column for the Daily Express highlighting the impact that human disturbance has had on seals across the UK. These rare and wonderful creatures are easily disturbed and unused to human contact resulting in stampedes and injuries when unwitting tourists get too close.

The UK has a global responsibility to look after the seals that make their home on the UK's shores. More than a third of all grey seals live on our beaches and in our seas and if we do not act to protect them, we could see their populations dwindle and gradually become more elusive as they move further and further away from human settlements. I would invite you to read my submission to the Express and learn more about how you can protect seals by visiting Seal Watch London's website.



RICHMOND POLICE UPDATE


CRIME IN NORTH RICHMOND Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, Richmond town centre has become the site of a series of robberies. The two suspects are aged between 15-16 and have been targeting younger children, stealing their phones, headphones, and other valuable items. The incidents have been taking place in and around Richmond Green, the Quadrant, Old Palace Lane and in some areas across the bridge in Twickenham. I would urge all parents with children younger than 16 to ensure they are being extra vigilant as these individuals are brought to justice. If you do not have children but would still like to help, please look out for any interactions that look suspicious. If you see older teenagers approaching lone children, try to catch their eye and make sure they are not in a dangerous situation. If you see something that doesn't look right, always call 101 or 999.


POLICE COMMUNITY EVENTS

Met Police's Inspector for Richmond wrote to me this week to ask me to invite residents to their first Richmond Community meeting on Monday 24 July 2023, from 18:00 –21:00 at York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham TW1 3AA. This event will offer residents of the borough the opportunity to hear their plans and enable the police to respond to your views, concerns and ideas. Your place can be secured using the police event Eventbrite link.


Met Police Richmond is also hosting Met In The Park, their family fun day, again this year. They will have Firearms Teams, Police Dogs and Horses, Riot Vans and Classic Police Cars to admire. London Fire Brigade, St Johns Ambulance, Harlequins Rugby Club and Disability Football will all be there and attendees will enjoy live music face painting, trampolines, and much more - all free!

The Family Fun Day will be on 21 August 2023 between 12:00 -18:00 at Old Deer Park in Richmond.



NHS STRIKES


Strike action affecting the NHS is causing disruption this weekend and up to Tuesday, but the NHS is still available for people who need it. If you need medical help or advice, or you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital, go to 111.nhs.uk - unless it is a life-threatening emergency when you should always call 999.


Appointments will only be rescheduled where it is necessary – the NHS will contact you if this is the case. If you have missed an appointment, please re-book and come forward for the care you need. Pharmacies and GPs are largely unaffected by the strikes so patients can still get appointments and health advice.


Emergency treatment will be prioritised, so it’s important that people who need urgent medical care still come forward, especially if you have a life-threatening illness or injury, when you should still call 999.



RHACC Learner of the Year Awards - Sarah presenting to Anupa








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