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Richmond Park News: 15th December 2023

RWANDA BILL


On Tuesday, Parliament voted on the Government’s revised proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. These proposals would allow the Government to bypass the UK courts after the scheme was originally blocked earlier in the year.


I unequivocally oppose the Government's plan. The scheme is inhumane, excessive and poor value for taxpayer money. I do not believe it will do anything to either stop dangerous Channel crossings or combat the people smugglers who facilitate them.


The asylum system is broken, and everything this Government has done has only made the problem worse. The best way to stop these crossings and tackle the criminal gangs is to provide genuinely accessible safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees. However, Home Office Ministers have closed them down, leaving desperate people to make perilous attempts to cross the Channel in small boats.


The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, yet this Government seems more interested in political manoeuvring than sensible governance.



FINANCE BILL AND STEALTH TAXATION


This week, the Government brought forward its Finance Bill which will allow the Chancellor to enact the measures he proposed in his Autumn Statement.


In my capacity as the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury, I responded to the Bill and chose to highlight the clear deception by the Government in their claims to be cutting taxes, whilst continuing to maintain the threshold freezes on income tax. 


Shockingly, figures published by the Office of Budgetary Responsibility show that there will be an estimated 7.5 million higher rate taxpayers by 2028-29, almost double the 3.8 million in the UK when this Government was elected in 2019. Meanwhile the total number of people paying income tax is set to rise from 31.5 million in 2019-20 to 39.2 million by 2028-29, as people are dragged into paying tax through the freezing of the personal allowance threshold. 


I know this is an extremely important issue for thousands of households across Richmond Park, and going forward, I will continue to hold the Government’s misleading claims on the economy to account. 



PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE


Yesterday, I led the Public Accounts Committee session that investigated the HMRC Standard Report. 


The session gave members the chance to put questions to the Head of HMRC, Jim Harra, and I specifically chose to focus on the ongoing issues with IR35 tax rules relating to how some self employed people are taxed; an issue that I know is important to many of my constituents in Richmond Park. 


I look forward to continuing my work on the Committee in the new year, and welcome thoughts on any of the issues we will be investigating.




HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE BOAT CRASH AND PEDICABS


On Sunday, a boat travelling to Craven Cottage football ground from East London crashed into Hammersmith Bridge causing minor damage to the platform's navigation sign and a supporting girder. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident and the boat was able to turn back towards the stadium without further issue.


While this was a minor incident, it should have been a wakeup call to the Government who have been neglecting the structure for almost half a decade. Had the crash been worse and caused significant damage to the already weakened bridge, we could have not only seen serious injuries but also the Bridge fall into an even more damaged state.


In more positive news, in the House of Lords this week, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Baroness Jenny Randerson proposed an amendment to the new Pedicabs (London) Bill which would allow for the infrastructure for a new pedicab service across Hammersmith Bridge to be built on TfL roads. This is the first step to getting an interim transport solution across the Bridge when the carriageway reopens to cyclists. I have been calling on the DfT to back this project since it was confirmed that the carrriageway will reopen in "early 2024" and it is great to see support coming from both the Lords and the Commons.


You can watch the committee session on Parliament TV here and read a copy of my Early Day Motion on Pedicabs for Hammersmith Bridge here.



ROYAL MAIL


On Friday, I visited Royal Mail's Richmond Sorting Office to ask the company about their preparations for Christmas and to highlight that, over the past year, deliveries in some areas have become increasingly sporadic. The delays have been so bad in some cases, that in the summer, I was forced to report the company to Ofcom for breaching its universal service commitment to the public.


Since then, local service has improved somewhat and the team at Richmond Sorting Office say they feel confident they will be able to handle the christmas rush. Staff shortages continue to be a problem, but investment into workers' mental and physical well-being has helped retain experienced postmen and women. If you don't recieve regular post over the Christmas period, please do let me know and I will do my best to make sure the company restores a regular, reliable service to your street.



WHITE RIBBON WALK


On Saturday, I joined the Richmond White Ribbon Walk to raise awareness of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and show solidarity with anyone who has been subjected to domestic, sexual, or gender motivated abuse. VAWG is still shockingly common in the United Kingdom with the ONS finding that there were almost half a million VAWG offences in the first 6 months of 2022.


I would particularly like to thank Cllr Katie Mansfield, Richmond Council's White Ribbon Champion, for all the work she has done campaigning on this topic. Everyone deserves to be able to go about their lives free from the fear of attack either in public or at home, and I am commited to making this vision a reality.


If you would like to know more about the White Ribbon Campaign follow the link here.




KINGSTON NEWS


GREEN GRANTS


Kingston Council has just opened Green Grants for not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises to help them deliver on their climate targets.


Small grants of  up to £5,000 and large grants of up to £10,000 per year are available for a minimum of 3 years. The council welcomes applications from local community groups, faith groups, national or regional not-for-profit organisations, educational institutions, think tanks, and social enterprises. The deadline for applications is 12th January 2024. It's important to note that this will be a competitive process so funding cannot be guaranteed. To find more information, visit their website and check the council's Climate Action Plan Year 1 Progress Report.



Original Arts & Crafts by Kingston University Students, Bentall Centre  


This weekend, Kingston University Students from Studio KT1 will be in the Bentall Centre showcasing their work and selling everything from jewellery to stationery. Studio KT1 is a fantastic enterprise run by and for students in our community to give them a head start in the creative industries.


The stall will be in Bentall's from 10 am to 6:30 pm on Saturday and 11 am - 4:30 pm on Sunday. If you want to support budding local artists and get a unique gift for a loved one this Christmas, I can highly recommend dropping by.



RICHMOND NEWS


SMALL STEPS NURSERY


Small Steps is a fantastic local charity in Richmond which supports disabled children in all areas of their development, with teachers, physiotherapists, and other specialists providing tailored care to both the children themselves and their parents. This week, the charity announced its two new ambassadors: stand up comedian, writer, and actress Rosie Jones and fellow actor and producer Edwin Thomas.


Both Rosie and Edwin have been extremely capable disability campaigners throughout their lives and I am very pleased to see them joining Small Steps' team. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from Small Steps' help, you can find their contact details with the link here. Small Steps recieves no statutory funding, instead, relying on grants, fundraising, and the generosity of the public to keep providing their free service. If you are planning on making a charitable donation this Christmas, giving to Small Steps would be an excellent choice.



CHRISTMAS FAMILY REINDEER TRAIL:


This year, Be Richmond have launched a fantastic free event for families across the borough. Children and parents can help find Santa's lost reindeer in Richmond!


Download the map or pick it up from the information point at Richmond station. Complete the hunt for an instant treat from Venchi chocolatiers and crack the hidden code for a chance to win tickets to Hampton & Richmond FC VS Weston-Super-Mare FC on the 23rd of December. The trail closes on the 19th of December and is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.






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