Richmond Park News: 25 November 2022
DEBATE ON THE CHANCELLOR'S AUTUMN STATEMENT
On Tuesday, I spoke in the debate on the Autumn Statement that the Chancellor delivered on Thursday 17th November.
This Statement delivered £55 billion worth of tax rises and spending cuts. In my speech, I highlighted the financial hardship that millions of families will experience as a result of the Conservative’s mismanagement of the economy and decision to raise taxes. As evidenced by the Resolution Foundation, Liz Truss’ mini-budget left a £30 billion hole in public finances, and now taxes have been hiked by £24 billion to repair the damage. Global economic conditions are especially tough at the moment, however, the Government's actions have exacerbated their impact.
The Conservatives have presided over years of slow growth, low investment and low productivity. I am very concerned that they have failed to produce a plan for future prosperity which tackles the issues at the heart of poor economic performance, such as lack of an industrial strategy, barriers to trade and workforce shortages.
I also took the opportunity to raise the issues facing the hospitality industry, following a roundtable with local publicans that I chaired last week. In the debate, I called on the Minister responsible for the hospitality industry to make a statement on the steps that the Government will take to support our struggling pubs and restaurants.
You can see clips of my contribution to the debate here and here. To read a full transcript of the debate, please click here.
ITV LONDON LATE DEBATE
Last night, I participated in the ITV London Late Debate, giving me a chance to discuss many of the issues currently being faced by those in Richmond Park.
Topics of discussion included the current state of the economy in the aftermath of the Autumn Statement, the impending further industrial action on the railways, and the World Cup in Qatar.
I sought to highlight several points, especially on the current concerns many of my constituents are feeling about the increased tax they will be paying, whilst simultaneously experiencing a cut to their public services. This point was in addition to raising the concerns of the many mortgage holders in Richmond Park, who will be paying more as a result of rapidly rising interest rates.
Should you wish to watch the programme, you can do so from 10 minutes onwards here.
Two months ago I wrote to Suella Braverman as the Home Secretary on behalf of all Liberal Democrat MPs, regarding the delays which are currently affecting so many visa-related applications.
I am acutely aware that this issue affects many of my constituents, from those still waiting to welcome Ukrainian refugees escaping from the horrors of Putin’s war in Ukraine into their homes from, to those waiting to be re-united with family both in the UK and abroad, and those in need of their working visas to be renewed in order to continue their vital work in areas such as the healthcare sector.
Ms Braverman confirmed that many visa-related applications are currently continuing to be delayed due to a backlog caused by the influx of applications since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Despite this, Ms Braverman has stated that though there can be no time ‘guarantee’ placed on visa application processing times, due to the sometimes-complex nature of applications, she has confirmed that processing times should return to normal for both Health and Care worker visas (3 weeks), and Skilled Worker visas (8 weeks), by the new year. I will be keeping a close eye on these developments after the Christmas recess, and hope that other visa processing times will also return to normal. You can read the full text of Ms Braverman's letter here.
BARNES RAIL BRIDGE
Earlier this week, engineers from Network Rail discovered hairline fractures on 4 of the 86 pins that hold Barnes Rail Bridge’s steel girders in place. Unfortunately, this means that the bridge, along with the Barnes Bridge station and Chiswick station, will be closed to trains over the coming week while Network Rail inspects for any further damage and replaces the pins.
I know that that many people in Barnes will be concerned that these works mark the beginning of another crisis, akin to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. However, I have spoken to representatives from both Network Rail and SWR, and while there are no certainties, they are confident this repair will be a matter of days, not years. Network Rail hopes to have Barnes Bridge reopened by December 4th and to restart rail service along this section of track soon after. While trains may not be able to cross, residents can still cross the bridge on foot. For more information on the closures and on alternative routes you can use visit SWR's journey tracker here.
NO 3RD RUNWAY: VIRGIN AIRLINES DROPS THEIR SUPPORT
In recent years, Virgin Atlantic has been one of the most prominent backers of the 3rd Runway at Heathrow, however this week, they have finally dropped their support for the project. The move comes after the airport announced its proposal to raise landing charges (the fee payed by airlines to use Heathrow) by 120%.
Heathrow is in a dire financial situation. Before the pandemic the company was already £13.7 billion in debt and they are desperately seeking new forms of revenue that would allow them to raise the billions required to build the 3rd Runway. What is interesting is that in doing so, they are alienating even their staunchest allies. It is clear that the prospect of the 3rd Runway is grounded indefinitely, yet neither Heathrow nor the Government will officially pull the plug on the project. Our community deserves certainty on this issue and I will keep pressing the Government to do the right thing and end its support for the 3rd Runway. You can read more about Virgin's opposition to the project here.
REPORTING GAS LEAKS, SEWAGE DISCHARGES AND FLOODS
Thames Water has asked me to share their online Sewer Flooding Questionnaire with constituents, which you can use to report issues that occur near your property, especially during times of heavy rain. Making sure they have a full picture of the situation here would encourage Thames Water to take action locally sooner. You can find the form here. You can also call 0800 714 614 to report water or sewage coming from their lines.
For gas escapes, please call 0800 111 999 immediately.
Please report flooding and leaks to the utilities immediately and do not assume someone else will. Having more people report will emphasise the situation to them.
NEW BOOK OUT ON RICHMOND'S TREES
Richmond’s Trees: An Exciting Trail of Discovery is a new book celebrating the trees on Richmond Green, Riverside Path and Terrace Gardens. The handbook and trail guide has been published by The Richmond Society, the town’s civic and amenity charity, and gives details of 34 specimens. The book is beautifully illustrated as well as having practical, literary and scientific references. Each tree is labelled for easy identification by walkers who follow a leisurely two-mile trail.
The book was launched recently in the presence of the Mayor of Richmond, Cllr Julia Cambridge. It costs £10 and can be ordered from The Open Book, 10 King Street, Richmond TW9 1ND, phone 020 8940 1802 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from sales will go to The Richmond Society.
KINSHIP CARE SUPPORT GROUP
One of my constituents has recently set up a support group for Kinship carers, with the charity Kinship. This group meets every Wednesday from 10.30-12.30 at Castelnau Community Centre in Barnes. For more information, please email email@example.com. You can also view the group’s promotional poster here.
If you are a kinship carer in need of any further support, the charity Kinship offer a range of dedicated resources and services that could be of use – for more information please visit their