30,000 UNSOLVED MUGGINGS
I know that crime is a growing concern for many residents across the constituency. In my work to address this I recently commissioned a report from the House of Commons Library on muggings in the UK. This research uncovered the shocking fact that 80 muggings a day (or 30,000 a year) are going unsolved, with the crime effectively being decriminalised. Cuts to neighbourhood policing mean the police have ceased to be a deterrent and many muggings are not investigated afterwards.
For a Government that claims to be tough on crime, the decimation of our local police forces and the subsequent reduction in their effectiveness demonstrates everything that is wrong with the way our country is being run. Police do not need new expansive powers that erode our civil liberties. They need the resources to put more boots on the ground and more police stations in communities.
On Monday, I spoke to Times Radio about these new statistics. You can view a clip of my interview here.
SOARING COSTS FOR MORTGAGE-HOLDERS
I am extremely concerned about the ongoing crisis in the mortgage market fuelled by the Conservatives' economic mismanagement and rising interest rates. Research I commissioned from the House of Commons Library has shown that the cost of re-mortgaging has risen by almost 40% over the last four years. This means that the average Londoner is now paying £615 more to re-mortgage their home than they would have done in March 2019. You can read a write-up of this research in the Times here, or in the Guardian here.
Alongside soaring inflation, the highest tax burden in 70 years and meagre government support for households, I know how worrying this news is. Additionally, due to persistently high levels of inflation, the market now expects that the Bank of England will raise interest rates to 5% in August - a further 0.5% increase. This will further drive up costs for homeowners and those wishing to take out their first mortgage and get on the property ladder.
The Government has pledged to bring down inflation, but so far they have made very little progress and only caused further pain to millions of mortgage holders. I will continue to use my voice in Parliament to raise concerns on behalf of my constituents and call on the Government to take firm action to support mortgage-holders.
ULEZ SCRAPPAGE SCHEME EXPANSION
Since the Mayor announced the coming expansion of the ULEZ, Liberal Democrat colleagues across London have been fighting for an expansion to the frankly inadequate scrappage scheme. I am extremely pleased to say that this week, Mayor Khan has backtracked on his previous policy and expanded the scheme to encompass all small businesses employing under 50 people and anyone in receipt of child benefit.
This will mean that anyone falling into these categories can apply for up to £5000 for a replacement van and up to £2000 for a non-compliant car or motorcycle.
While this is obviously good news, the announcement does not go far enough. By rushing out the policy for this August with a very short lead time, Mayor Khan has driven up the cost of a compliant vehicle, placed enormous stress on Londoners' finances during a cost-of-living crisis, and left no time to improve public transport.
We must do more to combat air pollution, but the Mayor is creating more problems than he is solving by trying to ram through this policy without suitable preparation. For more information on the scrappage scheme, follow the link here.
DEFRA WILDLIFE CODE
I was extremely pleased to see that DEFRA has recently released its new wildlife code. This set of guidelines provides information and advice to people viewing animals across the UK. It importantly, includes a section about the protection of the seals who live in our waters.
Some of my readers may not know that Richmond's riverside is increasingly playing host to seals swimming up from the estuary. While it is wonderful to have these animals in our community, I was shocked to learn how few protections are in place to keep them safe.
While the code is a good step forward, I would like to see the UK's seals protected in law and will be working with other MPs to lobby the government to protect these wonderful visitors to our community.
FREE RICHMOND PARK MINI BUS AND NEW TOILETS AT HAM GATE
I was very pleased to be able to join local councillors and representatives from the Royal Parks for the launch of Richmond Park's new minibus service. After the closure of Sheen Gate, I know how many residents were worried that they would not be able to access the park without being able to drive through it. I am very pleased this new service is up and running.
The minibus will operate three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and runs between all the Richmond Park car parks, Ladderstile Gate, Richmond Gate, Pembroke Lodge and Isabella Plantation. It will also regularly stop at Mortlake Station to collect passengers coming from further afield.
During my visit, I was also extremely pleased to see the newly renovated and reopened Ham Gate toilets. I lobbied vociferously for a replacement facility following the toilets' closure in 2020, and I am very glad that they are finally reopening. This will make the park more accessible to all residents and help keep the park clean as well. The toilets will be fully accessible to holders of a RAID key, and open to other members of the public for 25p.
For more information on the Richmond Park minibus, click the link here.
URBAN FOOD FESTIVAL
Kingston residents and foodies across the constituency will be pleased to hear that there will be an Urban Food Market in Kingston's Ancient Market Place on 10 June and 11 Jun from 10am - 7pm. With an array of food stalls representing various cuisines from around the world, this event promises to be a feast for the senses.
FREE TOUR OF KINGSTON MUSEUM BY JULIAN MCCARTHY
Anyone wanting to know about the hidden history of Kingston can register here to join Julian McCarthy for a family-friendly drop-in drop-out tour of some of the quirky and unusual objects in the collection at Kingston Museum. This fun and interactive tour allows you to explore and learn about hidden gems in Kingston that you may not have known about.
Julian McCarthy is a qualified Kingston upon Thames Tour Guide, founder member of The Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society and local history author. He has a passion for searching for obscure, but interesting, historical nuggets relating to Kingston and New Malden.
There are 2 tour times at 2.15-3:15 and 3:30-4:30 on these Saturdays: 10 June, 22 July, 12 August, and 23 September.
FISH OPEN GARDENS IN EAST SHEEN
Barnes, Mortlake and East Sheen residents will be keen to hear about the special 60th anniversary FiSH Open Gardens on Sunday June 4th from 1pm to 6pm in East Sheen.
FiSH is a local charity dedicated to helping elderly and vulnerable residents to live independently in their own homes. Many of their members can be lonely as well as vulnerable and Fish's aim is to befriend them and include them in events and meet-ups, such as coffee mornings, weekly shopping bus, monthly outings, art classes and choir.
You can start your own tour of the Open Gardens at either All Saints Church or Christ Church, where tickets and maps will be available as well as teas, cakes and soft drinks. Each of the churches has a cluster of open gardens around it. One of the gardens will feature a Pimm’s tent and music from the Saxophone band.
You can see the full map of gardens and plan your visit here.
RICHMOND'S GREAT BIG GREEN WEEK
The full timetable of over 50 local events for Richmond upon Thames’ Great Big Green Week on 10-18 June has been released. Organised by Richmond Council’s climate team in collaboration with a variety of local groups, organisations, businesses and residents, Richmond Great Big Green Week is a local celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature.
Residents will have the chance to:
· Learn how to plant for wildlife as well as grow fruits and vegetables
· Litter-pick on paddleboard or foot
· Learn from experts about a range of topics from energy efficiency to biodiversity
· Test out new ways to recycle
· Build wildlife habitats
· Connect mindfully with nature
· Learn how to repair and reuse everyday items
· Try out local resources helping to clean up our air
· Participate in a clothing swap
· Learn how to test a water sample from the Thames for microorganisms and microplastics
· Chat about climate with other like-minded locals
· Learn about some amazing ongoing community projects
Some events require booking in advance, so please check the timetable above for details.
One of the events I wanted to particularly mention is a 'spring clean' of East Sheen organised by local conservation charity Habitats and Heritage on Sunday 11 June. Clean Sheen 2023 will bring volunteers together to spend a morning clearing litter in their local area to make East Sheen's environment cleaner for the community and local wildlife. You can sign up for this excellent event here.