As a Liberal Democrat, I was saddened by the Brexit referendum result, and apprehensive about what would happen when we left. I hoped, however, that the Government would take responsibility for ensuring that our departure from the EU went as smoothly as possible and that the promised benefits of leaving the EU came to fruition.
Unfortunately, this has not happened. The Government has not succeeded in signing better trade deals or reducing red tape for British businesses. I remain extremely concerned about the future of British industry.
I made a short video discussing these concerns this week, hoping to raise awareness of what is happening and put pressure on the Government to do better. You can see my video here.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT CUT
I have continued to strongly oppose the Government's plan to scrap the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit they brought in last year. This will drive many of my constituents into poverty, including large numbers of families with young children. The cut will affect lower-income workers as well as those who are not able to work. I am also concerned about the knock-on effect it will have on local small businesses when they lose the trade this uplift enabled.
I wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today to explain the effect this cut in benefits will have on my constituents and ask him again to reconsider. You can see my arguments and supporting data by in my letter to the Chancellor here.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE BILL
I opposed the Government's Health and Social Care Bill this week primarily because of my deep concerns about the increase in National Insurance Contributions (NIC) contained in it. I am worried about the impact of this tax on low and middle earners - the teachers, health care workers and transport workers we owe so much to. Nurses, for example, will pay an average of £270 more tax per year.
The Government has not acknowledged that the additional employers' NIC contributions will place a significant burden on small businesses, just as they are trying to find their feet again after the pandemic. And the Government has not said whether large public employers such as hospitals and schools will have to find the additional tax contributions for their employees out of their already stretched budgets.
We desperately need to address our broken social care system. Too many vulnerable people are not receiving the care they deserve. Care staff are underpaid and over-worked. This plan places an unfair burden on working families, while failing to fix the social care staffing crisis or properly fund the NHS.
MANOR ROAD DEVELOPMENT
With Michael Gove's appointment as the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, I took the opportunity to write to him to ask him to call in the planning application for the proposed Manor Road development. Interested residents will remember that Richmond Council refused permission for this proposal, but it was then called in by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has indicated that he plans to approve it over the Council's (and my own) objections.
Mr Gove's predecessor declined to call the application in and consider overruling the Mayor, but with the Prime Minister indicating that he does not intend to proceed with all of his ill-conceived planning reforms, I saw an opportunity to get the Secretary of State to reconsider the decision not to call it in. Accordingly, I wrote to Mr Gove today explaining why I feel this is the right course. You can see my letter to him here.
COFFEE MORNINGS - NOW IN-PERSON TOO!
I will be hosting my next virtual coffee morning next Wednesday, September 22, at 10:00. If you would like to join me next week, please sign up here.
Following that event, I will be pausing my virtual coffee mornings to welcome constituents to a series of in-person coffee mornings held in neighbourhoods around the borough. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to get out and meet more constituents face to face.
Details and registration links for my first five face to face coffee mornings are available on my website here. Please do sign up if you would like to come and talk about local and national issues of interest to you and your neighbours.
SUZY LAMPLUGH TRUST SURVEY
National Personal Safety Day 2021 (Nov 9th) is approaching, and this year will focus on harassment on public transport. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has opened a survey collating data on anyone who has experienced unwanted behaviours on a bus, train, tube, taxi -- even those that aren't currently criminalised. These could range from intimidatory staring, to verbal abuse, to cyber-flashing, to loitering, to sexual assault. The survey takes two minutes and will contribute to their policy and campaigning work on personal safety. All responses will be anonymised.
The survey closes September 27th. You can access it here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DZ8FMNX
RICHMOND LITERATURE FESTIVAL
This year's Richmond Literature Festival will take place from 5 to 21 November in venues across the borough. Their programme of events was recently released, with a timely focus on how we can be more sustainable, more inclusive and more equal. The themes will delve into the concept of Breaking Ground and will look back to history and bring together some of today’s most exiting writers and thought leaders to explore what our future could look like.
The festival, which will see a return to in-person events, will feature book launches, panel discussions and some of the most exciting releases of 2021. To see the programme of events and find out how to buy tickets, please visit: www.richmondliteraturefestival.com
HAM YOUTH ACTIVITIES
Ham Youth Centre has announced their timetable of activities for this term. Some of their exiting offerings include:
gaming lounge with state of the art PCs and gaming consoles - soon to be running new accredited courses in game design and coding!
Weekly football session with Brentford FC
Regular arts and crafts sessions with local arts group Makers United
Weekly orchestra workshop
Young women's session, soon to be incorporating street dance classes
Click the poster here to see more details.
Local young people might also like to know that repairs to Ham's BMX track have been completed.
KINGSTON KOREA FESTIVAL 18 SEPTEMBER
Kingston Korea Festival returns with its special brand of autumnal celebration at St George’s Square, New Malden High Street, on Saturday 18 September from 12:00pm to 4: 00pm.
Live entertainment will include live music, New Malden’s Got Talent, Taekwondo and Hanbok demonstrations, food tasting and an opportunity to join in the Folk Games Olympics!
KINGSTON MOSQUE HEALTH AND WELLBEING EVENT
Come along to Kingston Mosque Saturday 25 September from 3:00pm to 5:00pm for a health and wellbeing information event.
As well as free food and drink, it will be an opportunity to learn about a new healthcare project the Mosque is working on with the NHS, to ask questions about services and to share your experiences.
PIANO CONCERT WITH ANNA MARIA STANCZYK
Anna Maria Stanczyk will be performing a concert of works for piano to raise money for repairs to the New Malden United Reform Church on Saturday, October 2, at 7:00pm.
Admission is free, and all donations collected on the night will go towards the work on the church.
This promises to be a wonderful evening and I hope many of my constituents will be able to enjoy it.