Richmond Park News: 19 August 2022
I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to everyone who received their exam results this week. The resilience that students have shown over the last three years is an inspiration to us all. Whether you are heading off to university, making your way into the job market, or taking a well-earned break, you should feel enormously proud.
I would also like to thank everyone who taught and supported this cohort throughout the pandemic. As life returns to normal, it is easy to forget how difficult those years were and how many teachers, parents, and guardians went above and beyond to help the class of 2022 make it through that difficult period. Good luck and congratulations to you all, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for everyone graduating this week.
NO ECONOMIC LEADERSHIP FROM THE GOVERNMENT
As I wrote in my last newsletter, the Liberal Democrats recently announced a proposal to cancel the upcoming rise in the energy price cap. This is one of a raft of policies that include cutting the top rate of VAT from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent, as well as introducing an Emergency Mortgage Support Fund for those on Universal Credit struggling with rising interest rates. However, we are seeing no serious plan from the current Government to introduce similar support for those struggling with rising costs.
This week, I spoke on both BBC Breakfast and LBC News regarding the lack of economic leadership being shown by the Government. I made the point in both interviews that the current Conservative leadership contest should not be a cause for delay in proposing immediate economic action to help families. Many across Britain are already facing huge economic uncertainty, and to see the Government continually delaying action to provide much-needed support is completely unacceptable.
You can see my BBC Interview here, and my LBC News comments here.
Emergency Mortgage Support Fund
On Thursday, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ask whether changes can be made to the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme (SMI), which provides much-needed support for those on Universal Credit and other Government benefits who are struggling to pay their mortgage.
Currently, the scheme supports eligible individuals in paying their mortgage when they fall into arrears. Since 2018, this has taken the form of an interest-bearing loan, secured against the claimant’s property, rather than the previous system of support payments
As we have seen, the Bank of England has raised interest rates significantly in an effort to control inflation. This means that those who are not on tracker and Standard Variable Rate (SVR) mortgages will see their bills increase, likely by thousands each year, which could pose a huge financial challenge for the poorest across Richmond Park.
I have therefore written to Thérèse Coffey asking her to implement three key changes to the support for Mortgage Interest Scheme. First, a return to the pre-2018 version of SMI, which would see a reversion back to support payments, rather than the current interest-bearing loan. Second, the abolition of the ‘zero earnings rule’, which stops Universal Credit claimants in paid work from claiming SMI. Finally, a reduction in the waiting time for the first payment of SMI from 39 weeks to 13 weeks, as per the rules between 2009 and 2016.
Should you wish to read my letter in full, you can do so here.