Richmond Park News: 24 February 2023
Today marks the one year anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thinking back on the last twelve months, I have been inspired by the bravery shown by the Ukrainian people, whether they have been fighting on the frontlines or trying to forge a life elsewhere. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the many people in Richmond Park who have so graciously opened their homes to house a Ukrainian refugee, or have donated clothes, money or other support.
When President Zelenskyy came to speak to Parliamentarians a couple of weeks ago, the level of appreciation he has for British support in his fight was clear, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to help Prime Minister Zelenskyy persevere in this fight until his country is restored.
I spoke on the topic of Ukraine in my recent appearance on BBC Question Time, which can be viewed on BBC I-player here.
Last night, I appeared on the ITV London Late Debate, along with representatives from the Labour and Conservative Parties. The discussion began with the European Union. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, the Liberal Democrats will always be the pro-European political party in the UK, and we are proud to be the only party with a clear policy on how to rebuild our relationship with the European Union.
I detailed how the first step should be to fix the disastrous Brexit deal, which is currently leaving businesses across the country strangled by red-tape, including several in Richmond Park. From there, the Liberal Democrats would focus on areas of commonality, such as the Erasmus scheme, scientific research agreements, reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications, cross-border policing and sensible immigration arrangements. We would then propose consideration of re-joining the Customs Union.
Whether we each voted to leave or remain in the European Union, we all need to move forward together as a country, adopting the best and most sensible course of action to allow Britain to prosper.
Should you wish to see a clip of me discussing the European Union in last night's debate, you can do so here.
I also took the opportunity during the debate to explain the Liberal Democrats' position on the Mayor's expansion of the ULEZ. If this affects you, you can see my thoughts on it here.
CUTS TO BUS SERVICES
This week, I commissioned a piece of research which discovered that since taking office Sadiq Kahn has removed over a thousand London buses from our streets, and cut bus services by more than 12 million vehicle miles. The 213 and 57 bus routes are victims of these cuts. Despite being vital links for school children and commuters, the Mayor has refused to reinstate their full timetable.
If the Mayor wants to get people out of their cars, he needs to provide a good alternative. But rather than making bus services more regular and reliable, he has been slowly gutting London's public transport. The blame for this, however, cannot be laid entirely at the Mayor's feet. The Government's inadequate funding deal with TfL has left them scrabbling to make savings anywhere they can, at a time when London's infrastructure desperately needs investment.
I spoke to the BBC and Evening Standard on these cuts earlier today. You can read my comments by clicking on the BBC link here.
SUPPORTING FAIRCHARGE FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
On Wednesday, I proudly sponsored a Parliamentary drop-in for the electric vehicle pressure group FairCharge. The group, which seeks to support the uptake of electric vehicle usage, is currently spearheading a campaign to equalise the rate of VAT paid between those who charge their vehicles on-street, currently at 20%, and those who do so on a driveway, currently 5%. This VAT inequality is particularly difficult for Londoners, including many in my constituency, who do not have access to a driveway, but either own or are considering buying an electric vehicle.
I will continue to work with FairCharge to challenge the Government on this discriminatory taxation. You can see an article in the Evening Standard on this issue here.
BURGLARIES IN BARNES
Following my meeting with officers from the Barnes Safer Neighbourhood team last week, a second suspect was apprehended in connection with the recent burglaries in the area and is now being held in custody. Police believe the burglaries to have been the work of these two individuals. They are confident that this should mean there will not be any further incidents of this kind.
Richmond Upon Thames is one of the safest boroughs in London and Barnes is one of the safest wards in the borough. However, this does not mean it can be left unprotected. I have been pleased to see the police treating these incidents with the seriousness they deserve.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge residents to always report crimes or suspicious behaviour. While I know it can feel like a box ticking exercise at times, it is vital that the police gather information. If you witness suspicious behaviour in your local area, your Safer Neighbourhood Team is available to help, you can contact them through the link here. In an emergency always dial 999.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE
I was pleased to join the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and local businesses last week to learn more about the issues they are facing. We got right into the details of how their businesses are responding to the current climate and I learned a great deal about how they are operating. It was particularly interesting to note that no matter the industry or sector, everyone is struggling to find skilled staff at the moment.
THAMES WATER CONSULTATION
As mentioned in my previous newsletter, in response to pressure brought by myself and Munira Wilson MP, Thames Water is holding two further consultation events to listen to the community's views on its plans to pump effluent water into the Thames close to Teddington Lock.
You can find the details of the event below. I would urge all interested residents to attend one of the sessions to learn more about the scheme.
Online webinar and Q&A on Monday 27 February between 19:00 and 20:30
Public information event on Friday 3 March from 14:00 to 20:00 at York House in Twickenham. You can register for both events with the link here.
It was a pleasure to meet constituents who live in Barnes for a coffee morning at Castelnau Community Centre yesterday. I always enjoy visiting the Centre, which truly draws together and serves the community it sits at the heart of. We discussed crime and policing in Barnes, Hammersmith Bridge, bus services, antisocial behaviour, allotments and housing matters. Residents also asked me questions about economic matters in my role as Treasury and Business Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats.
My next coffee morning will be in Richmond on Thursday March 16 at 10:30. I hope to see many of my Richmond and Petersham constituents there. If you would like to attend pleased register here.