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.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 website.
Kinship carers are family members and family friends who step up to care for children when their parents are unable to do so. Unlike foster carers, kinship carers do not receive financial support. As a result, I know that many carers such as grandparents have been unable to afford to keep much-loved grandchildren with them. Taking such children into the care system instead is a tragedy for all.
My Liberal Democrat colleague Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, has introduced a Bill to Parliament which would provide practical and financial support to kinship carers. I am delighted to co-sponsor Munira’s Bill - if you would like to read some more about the Bill, you can do so here.
NEW HOMES NEEDED FOR UKRAINIANS
Richmond Council is looking for more hosts to support Ukrainian guests in Richmond upon Thames under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, as many families prepare for their first Christmas in the UK. New hosts are needed to help support Ukrainian guests whose original sponsor is no longer able to provide accommodation for them – for reasons such as moving away or family ill health. The Council is particularly interested in hearing from people who want to help and have space for more than one adult or groups with children. The accommodation can be anything from a spare room to an unoccupied home, as long as it’s safe, heated and free from health hazards, and gives guests adequate access to bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Prospective hosts need to be able to offer accommodation for a minimum of six months, and those who are successfully matched to Ukrainian guests are offered a £350 per month ‘thank you’ payment once all relevant checks have been passed.
More information about the scheme is available on the Government’s Homes for Ukraine website which outlines important information and things to think about before signing up to host. If you have any questions please email the Richmond Homes for Ukraine Team on email@example.com.
DEMENTIA HEALTH AND CARE STRATEGY - HAVE YOUR SAY
Richmond Council is working with local partners and residents to deliver a 10-year Dementia Health & Care Strategy, designed to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers. The Council has produced a survey asking people to have their say on areas of focus designed to support those living with dementia and their carers across Richmond. All feedback received will be reviewed and used to inform the final version of the Health and Care Dementia Strategy. Everyone's contributions are welcome. You can click here to read the draft strategy, here for an easy read version, and here to complete the survey.
NK COUNCILLORS SURGERY
Councillors for Kingston Gate and Canbury Gardens wards have asked me to let north Kingston residents know that there will be a councillors surgery for Kingston Gate and Canbury Gardens wards, on Saturday the 25th at the Boho Cafe in Kings Road between 10:00 and 11:30 in the morning. All residents are invited to come and discuss any council matters concerning them. If you don't already know, you can find out if your ward falls into either Kingston Gate or Canbury Gardens with the link here.
NK COMMUNITY CHRISTMAS TREE
Councillors have also relayed that, in collaboration with the Co-op, the Council has funded a Christmas tree to stand in the triangle outside the Co-op in Kings Road in north Kingston. This will be a community tree - instead of being decorated by Co-Op or the council, all residents and schools in the area are invited to go and hang decorations on it. If you would like to contribute to the Christmas spirit in Kings Road, please stop by and hang something on the tree!