I was delighted to hear this morning that Richard Foord, the Liberal Democrat candidate in yesterday's by-election in Tiverton and Honiton, is to be their new Member of Parliament. I very much look forward to welcoming my new colleague to the House of Commons.
DEBATE ON COST-OF-LIVING SUPPORT
Last month the Chancellor announced additional support for those on benefits to help with the cost of living crisis. Households on means-tested benefits will receive £650 which will be paid in two instalments in July and October. Recipients of non-means tested disability benefits will receive a one-off payment of £150 in September. Although these payments are welcome, I do not believe that the measures go far enough. I was pleased to be able to raise my concerns in a debate in Parliament on Wednesday.
The Liberal Democrats have been calling for a cut in VAT from 20% to 17.5%, which would put £600 back into pockets, support struggling businesses, boost the economy and help curb spiralling inflation. You can view a clip of me raising this point here.
I am also concerned that key vulnerable groups will miss out on the additional payments. Those claiming Carer’s Allowance are excluded from the list of eligible benefit-recipients. This leaves hundreds of thousands of unpaid carers without desperately needed financial support. In the debate, I called on the Government to do more to support our unpaid carers. Click here to view a clip of this contribution.
I also took the opportunity in this debate to once again raise the issue of social housing tenants across the constituency whose homes fall into council tax band E and F, and who therefore missed out on the previous council tax rebate. I am pleased to see that the Government has now moved to a fairer method of targeting support by using the social security system as opposed to council tax banding. But I am disappointed that they have failed to respond to my letter on the issue of council tax banding. You can view a clip of this point being raised here.
RAIL STRIKES UPDATE
Network Rail and South Western Railway have issued a further request this week, asking residents to avoid travelling by rail, if at all, possible until Sunday. There will be continue to be severe disruption across the network with no trains running before 7:30 am until Monday 27th July.
I am very sorry to hear of the disruption that constituents have experienced this week as a result of industrial action across the railways. I strongly believe that this dispute can be resolved through continued and measured negotiation, which requires that all sides are brought to the table. Last week, I discovered that the Department for Transport had not met with the RMT Union for over a month. I subsequently wrote to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, to ask for an explanation as to what steps the Government have taken to avoid industrial action. You can read a copy of this letter here.
I am especially concerned about the impact of strikes on critical industries such as healthcare and education. Following a statement that Grant Shapps gave to Parliament regarding the strikes on Monday, I asked if he could tell us what conversations he has held with the NHS and education leaders to understand what the Department can do to support staff to get to work, and for children to attend exams.
I truly hope all sides will come to a resolution quickly and get London moving again. You can find more information on the strikes with this link.
MEETING WITH BRITISH TAMIL FORUM
Earlier this week, I met with members of the British Tamil Forum, alongside Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, to discuss the ways in which we can support our Tamil constituents. North Kingston in particular is home to a large and vibrant Tamil community and I am keen to work with Tamil representatives to ensure that the Foreign Office speaks out on the abhorrent human rights abuses suffered by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. You can learn more about the British Tamil Forum and the work they do here.
Last week, I joined Habitats and Heritage's fantastic team on the banks of the Thames to help clear the area of Himalayan Balsam. This invasive plant is overwhelming native species and damaging one of the few areas of 'wet woodland' on the river. Habitats and Heritage is working hard to extend this habitat and ensure that the biodiversity of the river is protected for generations to come. Find out more about the great work H&H does by clicking the link here.
On Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining a panel at Barnes Film Festival to discuss sewage and pollution in our lakes and rivers. As climate change continues to threaten our natural landscape, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can can to protect our environment. It is sad that in 2022 we are still having this debate, but I was glad to be able to raise awareness of this vital topic.
Last week, the Evening Standard launched it's "Plug It In" campaign designed to raise awareness of, and push forward policy relating to, electric vehicles. While there are innovative new plans on the horizon to help expand provision of EV chargers, I would like to hear residents' thoughts on how best this can be achieved. In the coming weeks, I will be reaching out to constituents to ask for your thoughts on where best new charging points and other changes can be made to have the most impact.
I will also be asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain why a higher rate of VAT is applied to public charging points than to private ones. This imbalance means that owning an electric car is far more expensive for residents who lack their own driveways or garages. If we are to achieve Net Zero, we need charging to be both reasonably priced and accessible to everyone. Learn more about the Plug It In campaign with this link.
CHANGES TO BARNES BUS ROUTES
TfL announced this week that they will be making changes to the bus services running through Barnes. The 209, 533, and 378 will all be affected. These alterations come as part of TfL's efforts to cut their expenditure and reduce bus services since usage fell after the pandemic.
In the absence of a long term funding deal with the Government, TfL is being forced to close and adapt bus routes across London. I have repeatedly made the point that a well funded public transport network is vital for the future of our city. Unfortunately, it seems the Government is intent on levelling down London's services. You can read more about the plans for Barnes and have your say by clicking here.
BRITE BOX MATCHING DONATIONS
I want to offer a huge congratulations to St Richard's School in Ham. The children raised £1959.89 from their sponsored walk for BRITE Box and have brought the campaign just £3551 away from their target. I was also pleased to learn that the matching donations window has been extended and all donations made to BRITE Box until the 28th of July will be doubled!
BRITE Box helps with the family food budget but also aims to bring families together around food, providing healthy family meal ideas which can be made again for less than £5, introducing different cooking skills, new flavours and delicious foods to encourage a love of cooking and a healthy relationship with food from a young age.
BARNFIELD RIDING SCHOOL - RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS!
Barnfield RDA has been helping disabled children and adults to experience the benefits of riding since 1987. They are looking for volunteers who would be interested in leading the ponies, looking after the children who attend, and walking by their side to ensure they feel safe. If you are interested in supporting them, you can sign up here.
RICHMOND UPON THAMES VOLUNTARY FUND
The Richmond Upon Thames Voluntary fund provides funding for local organisations who protect and support vulnerable people in the Borough. This year alone, they have raised almost £60,000 for charities that support children, students, and carers with their mental health. The fund has a target of £100,000, and I would encourage residents to give what they can to this fantastic cause. You can donate and find out more by clicking the link here.
UPCOMING KINGSTON EVENTS
CANBURY GARDENS BANDSTAND CONCERTS
The Friends of Canbury Gardens Bandstand are putting on a wonderful program of concerts this summer. Alongside putting on shows, they are looking for members of the local community who could assist with putting out chairs and ensuring the event runs smoothly. If you are interested in supporting the concerts, you can sign up by emailing email@example.com or by filling out the form here.
TEAS AND TREATS
On Friday 1st July from 11am - 2 pm at 62 Gibbon Road, Teas and Treats are offering a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone regardless of age or background to enjoy a free coffee, tea, and lunch. All are welcome and it is a lovely place to both meet other local people or to have some time for yourself. There will be a craft table in full swing and Elanko from Laurel Pharmacy will be joining the event offering free health checks. You can find out more by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSTON HOSPITAL - PATIENT PORTAL TESTING
On Thursday 30th June between 1.30 pm and 3 pm Kingston Hospital will be testing their online patient portal. To assist in this process, they are seeking patients, carers, and local community organisations to test how the portal works. Refreshments will be provided and everyone who attends will receive a £10 voucher as a thank you. To take part you will need to be a smartphone user and willing to share your mobile number during the trial. Click here to register your interest.
UPCOMING RICHMOND EVENTS
KEW RETAIL PARK CONSULTATION WEEKEND - 24th / 25th JULY
I want to remind my Kew constituents that on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of July, St George and their joint venture partner M&S will be hosting the Kew Retail Park Community Planning Weekend at the National Archives. The developers are looking to build up to 1,200 new homes on the site and have expressed a desire to involve the local community as 'co-designers' of the scheme. This weekend is a chance for affected residents and members of the local community to share their views, take part in planning groups, and have questions answered by the developers representatives. You can find the details for the event here.
MORTLAKE SUMMER FAIR
The Mortlake summer fair will be taking place on Saturday 2nd of July from midday until 4 pm. They have a wonderful set of activities on offer, live entertainment, as well as raffles and prize draws. The event will be held on the Stag Brewery Green and is likely to be a highlight of SW14's summer calendar. To learn more, click the link here.
UKRAINIAN POETRY AND MUSIC
Richmond Jewish Community Hub are hosting a night of Ukrainian poetry and music on the 12th of July. I am so glad to see our community is engaging with, and learning about Ukrainian culture. Richmond hosts more Ukrainians than almost any other borough and the outpouring of support has been inspirational. Though the event is free to the public,