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.
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.
This week has seen the start of a massive industrial action by the RMT, Unite, and TSSA trade unions. More than 40,000 bus, rail, and underground workers have walked out over disputes regarding pay, working conditions, and fears over job security.
Rail operators are advising customers against all but essential travel tomorrow. Most lines will not be operational and those stations that are will be operating a severely reduced service. In Richmond, Barnes Bridge and Barnes Station will be served by four trains an hour, while Mortlake, North Sheen, Richmond, Norbiton, New Malden, and Kingston stations will all be closed.
Disruption on the underground and bus services will also continue tomorrow. While TfL hopes to have tube services running smoothly by the afternoon, it advises that customers should expect delays if they travel in the morning. More than 80 bus routes will also be affected by the strikes with a limited service operating citywide. For more information on how to avoid disruption during your journey, click the link here.
Despite the recent heavy downpours, Thames Water has announced this week that a hosepipe ban will come into effect on Wednesday 24th August. Water levels in reservoirs have reached a critical level and we all need to play our part to prevent a further crisis. Anyone taken to court for persistently breaching restrictions could face a fine of up to £1000 if found guilty.
While it is important that we follow these rules, Thames Water must properly maintain and upgrade its infrastructure. More than 605 million litres of water are lost per day due to leaks in the ageing pipe system and while the company is working hard to fix these issues, it must do more to mitigate the need for further bans in the future. You can read the full details of the ban here.
Last Friday, I visited the new Safe Space initiative outside Richmond Station. This fantastic project has been made possible by the joint efforts of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRuT), British Transport Police (BTP), Metropolitan Police, White Ribbon UK, and a host of other agencies and charities. If you are in Richmond town centre on a Friday or Saturday night and feel unsafe, worried, or just need to talk to someone, you can find them in the white pavilion outside the station. For more information, visit LBRuT's website here or watch my summary of the project here.
One of my constituents has written to me about a sponsored row that her son and a number of other residents are participating in. My constituent says: "My son, along with 100 other rowers, aged 14 to 83, will be taking part in a 70 km sponsored row from Henley to Kingston Grammar School Boat Club, opposite Hampton Court, on 10 September. All the sponsorship money will go to a small charity called RALPHH, which raises money for defibrillators and cardiac testing for young people."
I am keen to see more automatic defibrillators made available in public places, as well as promote more people learning CPR. The first minutes of a heart event are crucial and anything we can do to help people faster will save lives. If you would like to learn more about RALPHH or support this (very long!) charity rowing event, you can see their website here.
LOCAL POLICING UPDATE
In response to problems reported by local residents and visitors, a new Public Space Protection Order is in place for the Eagle Brewery Wharf in Kingston (Behind the Ram pub on Kingston High Street). This order prohibits certain activities including: noise from loudspeakers, consumption of alcohol leading to ASB, public consumption of psychoactive substances, public urination and anti-social behaviour. Breaching the prohibitions carries a maximum penalty of £1000. I hope this will make the area more welcoming to people patronising the restaurants and the Rose Theatre nearby.
This week, volunteers in and around Canbury Gardens have been assisting Kingston's local safer neighbourhood teams with distributing crime prevention advice and flyers. Volunteers play a valuable role in helping our communities stay safe; if you are interested in assisting, please contact your local safer neighbourhood team with the link here.
The Met Police's Royal Parks officers are reminding the public not to use barbecues in parks and green spaces, not to have bonfires or fires in public places and to not dispose of lit cigarettes or glass/bottles.
Always call 999 in an emergency, report crime on 101 or on their website, and find your local team here.
Metropolitan Police Southwest London is running a Children’s Art Competition this summer. This year’s theme is ‘My Big Wish’. Please see the poster at the bottom of the page for details on how your children can enter. The closing date is 31st August.
SUPPORT FOR TEENS
While many teenagers are celebrating their grades, exams and exam results can really affect young people's confidence and self-esteem. Kooth is a free, safe and anonymous place for young people to find online support and counselling. Teenagers in need of support can visit Kooth.com or call their helpline on 0203 228 5980. If you want to know more about Kooth, click here.
If you or someone you know would prefer to get support in person, Richmond Borough Mind is joining with their counterparts in Kingston to offer a wellbeing drop-in service for 12 – 25-year-olds who want to chat, relax, take part in groups and classes or get 1-to-1 information or advice. You can find more information about the drop-in service here.
This weekend, Whittaker Avenue's new garden space will play host to some wonderful live events. Later this evening, there will be a performance from local artist Andy Acoustic; while tomorrow, the Perrin Jazz collective will be taking the stand from 6 pm to 8 pm. All of the events are free to attend and I highly encourage looking in if you are in the area. For more information on the Whittaker avenue space, click here.
LEARNING DISABILITY HEALTH AND WELLBEING EVENT
Kingston residents are invited to the All Age Learning Disability Partnership Board's health and wellbeing event on Friday 2 September, 2:00 pm -5:00 pm. Come along to the Searchlight Community Centre on Kingston Road (KT3 3RX) and find out more about local services available to people with learning disabilities, their carers and families. You will be able to try out drumming, sing and sign, play sports with Fulham FC and much more.
This September Kingston Council is putting the spotlight on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability through several activities and events across the borough. Take a look at their events page to find out what is lined up so far and keep an eye on their social media channels throughout the month for help and advice to make simple changes that can benefit the borough and the planet.
KINGSTON KOREA FESTIVAL
The Kingston Korea Festival 2022 starts with the Harvest Fest on Saturday 10 September, from 11.45 am-4 pm. This free family-friendly event takes place at the new Jubilee Square in New Malden, with activities including traditional dancing, music, storytelling, food stalls and much more.