Updated: Oct 18
The Prime Minister today announced that she has sacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, and reversed her policy of cutting the planned corporation tax rate rise. This is in response to both a public backlash and market reaction to the “mini-budget” of three weeks ago.
The Conservative government continues to lurch from catastrophe to crisis and, in the best interests of the country, it cannot be allowed to continue. The Liberal Democrats are calling for a General Election. The only way forward is for a new government with a democratic mandate to get us through the current challenging circumstances. It will take more than a sacking here and a U-turn there to persuade the country, our international partners and the financial markets, that the UK government can establish stability and a clear plan.
UPDATE ON THE ECONOMY
Economic turmoil has continued this week, causing a run on pension funds and continued crisis in the mortgage market. Additionally, ONS figures confirmed the economy contracted by 0.3% in the three months to August 2022. I was therefore pleased to be back in Parliament this week to question then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and the Prime Minister directly on their plans to stabilise the markets.
On Tuesday, I took part in a debate on the repeal of the Health and Social Care Levy, which is the 1.25 percentage point increase to National Insurance. I voted against this unfair tax hike when it was first introduced and I am pleased that it has been scrapped. However, I am concerned about the impact such chopping and changing has on business confidence and investment and hiring decisions. You can watch a clip of my contribution here.
On Wednesday, I questioned the Government after Treasury Minister Chris Philp’s statement to Parliament on the economic situation. I highlighted the threat that economic instability poses to people’s pensions and mortgages and asked that the Chancellor return from Washington to sort out the mess created by the mini-budget. You can watch a clip of my contribution here.
HEATHROW THIRD RUNWAY
During Prime Ministers' Questions this week, I took the opportunity to ask Liz Truss if she stands by Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan's position and backs building a third runway at Heathrow. The answer was an unequivocal yes.
Liz Truss's support of the expansion is another demonstration of her lack of knowledge on important issues and inability to lead the Government responsibly. Heathrow is in one of the worst financial positions it has ever been in: it is almost £13 billion in debt, the aviation sector is still recovering from the pandemic, and the airport's largest shareholder is rumoured to be looking to sell its stake. Neither the airport nor the communities surrounding it want this expansion, yet the Prime Minister is doggedly defending a policy that makes no economic or environmental sense.
I have been fighting against a third runway throughout my political career. The project would make areas of our community unbearable to live in, pollute our air, and strike a blow against a Net Zero future. You can see the full clip of my question to the Prime Minister by clicking here.
On Monday night, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) selected the Foster + Partners and Cowi “double decker” solution as its preferred option for the strengthening works to Hammersmith Bridge. This solution involves the construction of temporary platforms over the current decking of the bridge to permit foot, cycle, and motor traffic to cross while the original structure is repaired. This solution allows for the original deck to be removed in pieces and lowered onto barges below for offsite renovation.
The plan is estimated to be almost £40 million cheaper than a more conventional approach and is likely to mean the bridge can be reopened to motor traffic much sooner than expected. However, I am concerned that there has been a lack of scrutiny by other stakeholders and communities affected by the Bridge’s closures. For this reason I have once again written to Baroness Vere to demand a meeting of the Hammersmith Bridge Task Force. While LBHF have done an admirable job pushing work on the bridge forward, they do not represent the people of Richmond Park. Any decisions they make will affect hundreds of thousands of people across west and southwest London, and it is absolutely vital that our community is not excluded from the decision-making process. You can read the text of my letter to Baroness Vere here.
ROYAL PARKS MOVEMENT STRATEGY
On Monday, the Royal Parks announced their final decision regarding the Movement Strategy that has been trialled in Richmond Park and other parks for the last 18 months. They confirmed that these trial measures will now be made permanent. I have had many conversations with Royal Parks about the Movement Strategy and continue to represent the full range of residents views about the planned changes. I have been pushing them to consider a greater range of public transport options both to and within the Park and am delighted that they will be actively exploring options around this. Full details of the Movement Strategy and agreed changes can be found here.
Last weekend I was pleased to visit Victoria House, the Abbeyfield care home in Kew, to help them celebrate the launch of a book by local historian Simon Fowler on the history of the home since it opened in 1980. The book, which was supported in part by a small grant from the Council, celebrates the close links of Victoria House with the Kew community. I very much enjoyed the launch and afternoon tea at St Luke’s in the Avenue with residents, staff and local supporters of the house. You can find the book for sale at Kew bookshop.
I was back in Kew on Wednesday to help the Kew Gardens Rotary Club celebrate its 38th Charter Anniversary at the Coach & Horses Hotel on Kew Green. President Paul Raven-Hill welcomed myself and David Logan, CEO of the Vineyard Project in Richmond. David spoke about recent activities to support people in need in Richmond borough, through the Richmond Food Bank and drop-In centre, and the co-ordinated assistance being provided for Ukrainian Refugees living in Richmond.
The Rotary Club took up a collection at the meeting for End Polio Now, Rotary International's campaign to improve polio vaccination rates in the few places where cases are still found. closer to home, many of you will know that the polio virus has been found in sewage water in north and east London. In response, children aged 1-9 years who live in London are being offered an extra dose of polio vaccine. I strongly encourage parents to take up this offer, to ensure a high level of protection for their children and to help stop the virus spreading further.
CRIME AND POLICING UPDATE
At my coffee morning in Mortlake two weeks ago, the primary topic of conversation was crime and antisocial behaviour. I have been working with the Mortlake Safer Neighbourhood Team and wider Met Police leaders to try to get a more intense focus on addressing this. Sgt Whittaker wrote to me this week with an update, saying the police have made a priority of tackling drug using/dealing and associated ASB in St Mary The Virgin's churchyard and the surrounding areas.
Police cameras have been positioned on Mortlake High Street opposite St Mary The Virgin Church and on Worple Street. These cameras are a temporary measure, but they will allow the police team to build intelligence quickly, identifying the persons responsible for crime in the area.
Sgt Whittake says, "My police team have worked very closely with Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) – responding to complaints of ASB/drug activity to identify individuals and properties, collect evidence and utilise enforcement actions. Whilst I’m unable to go into specifics due to data protection, I’m pleased to report that we have utilised enforcement powers under Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and will continue to do in partnership with Richmond Housing Partnership and Community Safety."
There have also been increased visible and covert police patrols deployed to prevent crime. Park Guard council officers have also been deployed to the local area to patrol the open spaces, providing an additional uniformed presence. And front door entry systems into RHP housing blocks have been checked to see if they were working, with urgent repair requests raised where they were not.
I am also very pleased to report that an additional Police Constable has joined the Mortlake SNT team. PC Brackenbury will be posted to the team for the next five months as an extra resource for the local community while the police try to get crime under control.
Barclays Bank has been in touch with me this week to ask me to warn constituents that during the cost fo living crisis scammers might try to contact them pretending to represent energy companies. Please be assured that energy companies will never call or email asking you for your bank details.
They have also said fraudsters are calling customers, pretending to be Barclays or a trusted third party and claiming that, to identify the customer, they need a one-time passcode. They ask for this passcode because they’re using your stolen card details to make a card transaction online. If you share your passcode in this situation, you could end up unknowingly helping a criminal. Banks will never contact you unexpectedly and ask for a one-time passcode.
They also recommend that customers of all banks set up payment alerts and check their bills and statements carefully each month.
I also had a letter this week from Lis Chapple, the SW London Borough Commander for Met Police, relaying new initiatives from Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley. Sir Mark has said that he shares my frustration at the abstraction of officers from local policing to deal with protests and other demands outside their assigned area. He said: "In eleven days we have put 2,156 officer days into doing this...That is an enormous number of policing resources that aren’t tackling issues that matter to local communities, aren’t dealing with knife crime, aren’t dealing with violence against women and girls."
I am very pleased to hear that Sir Mark takes this issue seriously, as it particularly affects safe boroughs like Richmond and Kingston, which are incorrectly perceived as being able to spare their officers.
I wish Sir Mark the very best with his numerous plans to improve the Met Police and will continue pressing for more and better community policing right across my constituency.
SCHOOL OR COLLEGE WORRIES?
If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed about being back at school or college, Richmond council wants to make sure you know you are not alone. A new year may bring new pressures, responsibilities, worries, friendship problems and lots of things that might build up and seem to be impossible to cope with. Help and support is always available at Kooth, the council's online mental health community. It's free, safe and confidential for all young people. Click here to find out more.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH EVENTS AT HAM YOUTH CENTRE
The Ham Youth Centre will be open during half term, Monday 24 to Monday 31 October, from 12pm to 4pm offering normal youth club activities like sports, arts, etc. But they will also be running exciting workshops and activities inspired by Black History Month. All activities will be FREE. Find them at Ham Close, TW10 7PL, click here to see what's on offer, or email Ben Skelton at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Last year, Kingston ranked third out of all London boroughs for recycling rates, with over 24,900 tonnes of recycling collected. Thank you to everyone who is making the most of the available recycling services and doing their part to reduce landfill use.
Next week is Recycle Week and the Council is focusing on increasing food waste recycling. Food waste costs the average UK family up to £60 a month. To find out how to reduce waste and save money and the environment go to the Love Food Hate Waste website. It is quick and easy to recycle food waste, just pop it in your food waste caddy and put it out for collection on bin day.
NEW UNILEVER GLOBAL HQ IN KINGSTON
This week saw the official ground-breaking ceremony for Unilever's new global headquarters in the heart of Kingston. Unilever has said that the development will bring opportunities for Kingston's economy and residents with more than 2,000 jobs coming to the town centre. The construction process itself will also generate new jobs for Kingston residents.
The complex, on the site of the old Hippodrome, will see two new office buildings and a residential development set within landscaped gardens. The Council has assured me that the scheme has strong sustainability credentials and they have been working with developers to further improve the plans for the benefit of the wider area. This includes reducing CO2 emissions associated with the build and reducing heights of the office buildings. The new development is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Book launch for Victoria House at St Luke's in Kew