OPPOSING NEXT WEEK'S UNIVERSAL CREDIT CUT
The Government should be supporting lower-income families as furlough comes to an end and food and fuel prices rise. Instead it has decided to withdraw the Universal Credit uplift of £20 per week next week. This will do untold damage to thousands of families in Richmond Park. With almost half of those receiving Universal Credit already in work and many having young families, this cut will tip more working people and children into poverty.
Between the scrapping of the uplift, the increase in National Insurance, rising food prices due to HGV driver shortages and now the energy prices crisis, we are on the verge of national catastrophe. The Government must stop taking valuable protective measures away from those who most need them.
To see my short video on this, please click here.
I also wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to maintain the uplift. You can read that here.
PAC ON GREEN HOMES
I used this week’s Public Accounts Committee hearing to ask the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about the failed Green Homes Grant, which would have cut energy bills and reduced fuel poverty for families in my constituency.
Just £94.1 million of the allocated £1.5 billion was spent before the Green Homes Grant was scrapped. This was a huge missed opportunity and one that I fear will wreak havoc on those at risk of fuel poverty. It’s also a missed opportunity to make important progress on our Net Zero targets.
You can see my question about this in the Public Accounts Committee hearing here.
WESTMINSTER HALL DEBATE ON DECARBONISING AVIATION
On Tuesday I was pleased to take part in a debate hosted by Fleur Anderson (Member of Parliament for Putney) in Westminster Hall on decarbonising aviation.
Heathrow Airport is the single largest polluter in the UK. Its emissions account for over half of all UK aviation emissions. A third runway would increase this considerably, so I was keen to use the opportunity to argue against Heathrow expansion.
I believe the Prime Minister must amend the Airport National Policy Statement. He must rule out Heathrow expansion, if he is serious about both his Jet Zero strategy and getting to Net Zero.
More broadly, as we look to the future and consider our environmental obligations, the Government to be bold in its vision and lead the way in terms of developing and delivering new transport technology.
We must not become complacent - simply adapting to climate change. We must remain committed to tackling its root causes, and that involves looking holistically at all opportunities to radically reduce carbon.
You can see me calling on the Government to amend the Airports National Policy Statement to rule out any Heathrow expansion here.
I talk about de-carbonised aviation as a part of supporting Britain's international economic links here.
And I remind the Government of the Importance of reducing carbon production, not just carbon off-setting, here.
This week I also met with a representative from ABTA, the body that represents travel agents and tour operators. The situation for our economically vital travel and tourism sector remains very difficult. They have had to reopen with significant restrictions, but without targeted support.
One particular challenge they raised with me was the shift from expensive PCR tests to lateral flow tests for international travel. While the Department for Transport has said it plans to bring this change in before the October half term, there is no guarantee that they will do so. They need a commitment from the Government that holidays will be made as affordable as possible for families. To get an idea of the challenges the travel sector is facing at the moment, you can see ABTA's information sheet about it here.
I will be conveying a number of ABTA's requests to the Department for Transport this coming week.
VACCINES FOR 12-15 YEAR OLDS
I was relieved to see the vaccination of 12-15 year olds begin this week. I think the Chief Medical Officer has made the right recommendation in offering the vaccine to this age group, given its well-established safety and efficacy. I believe that keeping schools open is vital to children's welfare, and that vaccination will help reduce transmission in school settings and prevent closures.
I was also pleased by the Chief Medical Officer's assurance that no coercion will be applied to young people and/or their parents to receive the vaccine. My personal view is that the vaccine is safe and saves lives. But I will always defend the right of an individual to refuse medical treatment. I would like to see all of my constituents aged twelve and over vaccinated, for their own protection, but I respect the rights of young people and their parents to choose not to be vaccinated if that is their wish.
If you have concerns about vaccination for teenagers, Dr Patrick Gibson, the clinical lead for NHS Richmond, joined Talk Richmond this week for a detailed discussion on it. Dr Gibson discusses the decision to vaccinate this age group, the evidence behind the decision and other issues. Listen to it by searching for Talk Richmond in your podcast app or going to www.richmond.gov.uk/podcast.
KINGFISHER LEISURE CENTRE
When the Kingfisher Leisure Centre was closed in November 2019, Kingston councillors had to decide: did they want to fix the roof, or did they want to try to build the best leisure centre in London in its place? Their decision to demolish the existing building and opt for a brand new centre is one that has my full support. For more information on the plans, please click here.
I recognise that some of my constituents have concerns, particularly about the financing. I know that RBK is presently exploring a range of funding options. I understand residents are concerned about this and will share whatever information I can as soon as possible.
I took the opportunity this week to film a short video, outlining why I'm excited about the new plans. You can view my video here
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
This week I spoke with the owner of a company called Shuttle Box, who is creating a line of small, zero-emission, pedal-assisted electric vehicles. I was particularly keen to speak with him about his urban velotaxi, which is designed to carry passengers. You can see the design here. The owner has been in an ongoing conversation with the Barnes Community Association, who are hoping to reinstall the rickshaw service that was previously operating over Hammersmith Bridge.
I was really encouraged to hear more about his designs and will be writing to the Department for Transport to see if there is any funding that might be available for such a scheme. There are still many people who can’t manage active travel and require assistance to cross the Bridge in the absence of bus services. I am eager to explore all possible avenues to mitigate against the challenges they are facing.
TFL NEWS: ULEZ CAR CHECKING APP AND WEEKLY CAPPING
Following feedback from constituents about the ULEZ car-checking app on the Transport for London (TfL) website, I wrote to TfL to let them know that the design of the app was confusing. When a car owner puts in a number plate it tells them what fees are chargeable to that vehicle, but doesn't mention any fees that are NOT chargeable to that vehicle. I wrote to them to let them know that this left my constituents unsure whether their cars were ULEZ-compliant or not.
TfL responded this week to say they are "in the process of making changes to the vehicle checker to make the messaging clearer. These changes include clearly stating when a vehicle does not need to pay to drive in other charging zones. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention."
TfL also wrote to me this week to tell me that weekly capping on Oyster cards for adult customers will begin on Monday. This means that passengers travelling on Tube and rail services across London will never need to buy a weekly Travelcard; the Oyster card will stop charging them for the week when they have reached the weekly Travelcard price. Good news for commuters!
IN-PERSON COFFEE MORNINGS!
I am really looking forward to meeting constituents in person in the coming weeks. If you would like to attend one of my coffee mornings, the schedule for my first round of events is as follows:
Ham and Petersham: Tuesday October 5 at 10:30
Kew: Wednesday October 6 at 11:00
Richmond: Friday October 8 at 11:00
Mortlake and East Sheen: Tuesday October 12 at 11:00
Barnes: Wednesday October 13 at 10:00
You can sign up for all of these coffee mornings here. Events in North Kingston will follow shortly.
Please do share this invitation with any neighbours who might like to come. It can be difficult to get information to all of my constituents, so if you have a local residents group or a street WhatsApp group I would be very grateful if you would let them know about my coffee mornings.
NEW POST OFFICE IN BARNES
I am delighted to let Barnes residents know that, after a concerted campaign to re-establish postal service in Barnes, the Post Office has written to me to say that they will be opening a new post office on Friday 12 November 2021. This will be in a new location at 1 Verdun Road, Barnes SW13 9AN, and will be known as Verdun Road Post Office.
I am delighted that Barnes will once again have a post office, and look forward to visiting it. More information and a link to the public consultation on the details for the new post office can be found here.
CALLING LOCAL CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT GROUPS
Richmond Council is encouraging local groups to get involved in Richmond Climate Week by hosting a climate-focused event. Richmond Climate Week is being co-ordinated by local conservation charity Habitats & Heritage and will take place from 1 - 7 November.
Richmond Climate Week aims to engage and inform Richmond upon Thames residents about climate-related issues through locally-focused content. Each day of Richmond Climate Week will focus on a specific theme that will introduce residents to topics such as food, waste and recycling, energy saving, transport and air quality, net zero, nature, habitats and biodiversity.
Local groups that are working on climate change and environment projects are encouraged to contact Habitats & Heritage. Please email email@example.com
DRINKING FOUNTAIN ON RICHMOND GREEN RESTORED
The 19th century drinking fountain on Richmond Green has been restored after the Friends of Richmond Green were awarded funding through Richmond Council’s Civic Pride Fund.
In recent years the water fountain on Richmond Green, which dates back to the 1860s, became badly damaged, cracked and stained with moss. It was last refurbished in 1977 for the Queen’s Jubilee.
The fountain now dispenses clean drinking water again, allowing residents to refill their water bottles. This will help us cut down on single use plastic while enhancing the look of Richmond Green.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING POINTS
Kingston Council is asking residents to tell them where they would like to see electric vehicle charging points installed in Kingston by completing this survey. Residents might also like to know that If you are considering buying an electric car, you could get a 75% contribution toward the cost of a charge point and installation at home.
FREE OUTDOOR TABLE TENNIS
Did you know that there are outdoor table tennis tables at Elm Road Open Space, where you can bring your own paddles and table tennis balls and play for free?
Or, if you fancy a challenge, you can try StreetTT, a mobile and web application designed to connect outdoor table tennis players into an online table tennis league. Until 30 October, the StreetTT team will be at Elm Road Open Space on Sundays from 1:00 - 3:00 to help get you started.
COMMUNITY GRANTS OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS
Grants of up to £3,000 are available to fund projects, activities and events that will benefit communities across Kingston borough. Applications can be made until 17 October. Please do apply if you have an idea for a local project.