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Richmond Park News: 26 May 2023


PRIME MINISTERS QUESTIONS

This week, I had the opportunity to challenge Rishi Sunak at PMQs about the exodus of investment from the UK in recent years. Indeed, I recently learnt that just a few days ago a solar power developer, Oxford PV, said that Britain was the ‘least attractive’ market to locate its new factory, and would be planning to list elsewhere.

This issue has been a serious problem for the UK since our exit from the European Union, and should the Government not ditch their ideological rhetoric and adopt a genuine industrial strategy, this is a trend that could continue to seriously hamper British economic growth. Frustratingly, Sunak refused to acknowledge the issue, dodging the question with a series of statistics that did not address the point at hand.

The crisis of investment facing many UK businesses is often raised with me, both in my role as MP for Richmond Park, but also as Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, and I will continue to hold this Conservative Government to account for their failure to support UK businesses.

Should you wish to see a clip of my question, you can do so here.


PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: SORT THE SYSTEM EVENT FOR ELECTORAL REFORM

On Wednesday, I attended the ‘Sort the System’ lobby event for electoral reform in Westminster to reaffirm my support for a change in our voting system to a more proportional alternative.

This has long been a key campaign for the Liberal Democrats, and one which I proudly ran on in 2019 when I was elected as the MP for Richmond Park.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we ensure votes matter, and introduce a system where people who live in 'safe' constituencies can still make their voices heard. It was great to meet so many of my constituents at the event and see the growing support for a fairer electoral system first-hand.



GOVERNMENT SCRAPS KEY ANIMAL WELFARE LEGISLATION

The Government announced yesterday that it is breaking yet another 2019 manifesto commitment by scrapping the Kept Animals Bill. This Bill would have introduced new powers to end the export of animals for fattening and slaughter, tackle puppy smuggling and ban the keeping of primates as pets.

My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have been strong supporters of the Kept Animals Bill and I am extremely disappointed that this vital piece of legislation has been dropped, after years of dither and delay.

If we accept animal sentience then animal cruelty must be considered unacceptable, and it is crucial that we change the law to better protect animals from harm. The Government have said that they aspire to be a global leader in animal welfare, yet only one of the three animal welfare Bills proposed in the 2021 Queen’s Speech has since been enshrined into law.

I will continue to hold the Government to account for its failure to honour its manifesto commitments and keep working to strengthen the law to protect animals.


PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO BULB ENERGY

On Thursday, I led a session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Bulb Energy, which collapsed in 2021 during a period of instability in the energy market.

Bulb was subsequently placed in special administration by the Government to maintain the supply of energy to consumers – the first time the Government had taken such a role. Since November 2021, taxpayers have spent £3bn to maintain Bulb’s energy supply. Octopus Energy subsequently took over Bulb in November 2022 and acquired its customers, assets and liabilities.

Alongside my colleagues on PAC, I questioned Government officials, Ofgem and Octopus Energy, on the special administration, sale process and transaction agreement; and on the amount of taxpayer support provided to Bulb, the agreement with Octopus, and the government’s plans to recover this funding. I am pleased that, as the National Audit Office report found, the Government largely achieved its objective to maintain supplies to Bulb and complete the sale process.


You can view a clip of the committee here find out more about our inquiry here.




CRIME AND POLICING: REPORT EVERY CRIME


This week, more than a hundred residents attended the Barnes Police Liaison Group meeting in response to the shocking series of muggings and burglaries that have taken place in the Ward. It was extremely good to hear that the police have made a number of arrests in relation to the crimes and that they will be working with their counterparts in Hammersmith to deter any further incidents.


We face a challenging situation here in Richmond upon Thames, we have the lowest crime rate of any borough in London, but because of this, lobbying for more resources is extremely difficult. I know that this statistic does not reflect the lived experience of many of my constituents and so I would urge residents in the strongest possible terms to report every single criminal incident they witness directly to the police.


Officers cannot see Nextdoor and cannot monitor social media accounts 24/7 so it is absolutely vital that every crime is reported and logged either through 999, 101, or online with the link here. If you are worried about reporting a crime you can always do so anonymously through Crime Stoppers with the link here.


Finally, if you have not already done so, I would urge you to sign my petition to re-establish a police station in Richmond Park. More than 2500 local people have signed up so far and every day we are building a stronger case to present to the Mayor. If you have already signed, please share it across your local WhatsApp and community groups and help spread the message that we deserve a permanent police station in our constituency. Sign the petition with the link here.



PROTECTING YOUR CHILDREN FROM MUGGING AND ROBBERY


The thought that your child might be mugged does not bear thinking about, but I would urge all my constituents with children walking home alone to share the great advice Richmond Group Mothers Against Mugging has put together:

  • Keep phones, headphones, and expensive items hidden when walking.

  • If you feel unsafe, even if you don’t know why, move away from the area and try to walk with others.

  • If walking at night, walk in the centre of the road if safe to make yourself more visible to others.

  • Do not keep travel cards or debit cards in your phone case so that if your phone is stolen you can still get home.

  • Text ‘register’ to 999 and click the link. This will mean that in an emergency when you can’t speak you can still alert the police that you need help.

For others in the community, it’s important to remember that most teenagers are mugged by other teenagers. Sometimes these can even be people they know from school or socially. If you see a group of teenagers approaching a lone child or teen, try to catch their eye and just double-check that everything is ok.


We live in a safe community, but living in London means that we should always try to be aware of our surroundings and ready to look out for one another. If you want to learn more about what you can do to keep your child safe, visit Mothers Against Mugging's Facebook Page here.



VISIT TO CASSEL HOSPITAL QUILT


I was delighted to go to Ham House last week to view the Cassel Hospital Centenary Quilt - an inspiring project led by former Cassel Hospital patient, palliative care nurse and lecturer Hannah Cadogan.

The quilt, which is still being worked on, was displayed on its quilting frame at Ham House in Richmond.


The Cassel Hospital offers treatment to adults with severe and complex personality disorders, and young people with emerging personality disorders who may often have exhausted all other avenues of help from mental health services. The centenary quilt will consist of exactly 100 ‘diamonds’, produced by patients, carers and staff past and present, and aims to reflect the hospital's fascinating history.


I enjoyed meeting Hannah, who also trained as an embroiderer at the Royal School of Needlework and seeing her painstaking work in action. Cassel Trust Deputy Chair Maureen Miller was also kind enough to come and speak to myself and local councillor Penny Frost about the Cassel Hospital's century of amazing work. More than one former Cassel patient has told me that the hospital "saved their life." I thank all staff members for their service to the community and join them in celebrating their work.



TFL BUS LANES


This week, TfL announced that for the first time, non-emergency ambulances, police cars, and fire vehicles will be able to use bus lanes even while not responding to a call. This decision was taken after a trial with Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust saw reduced journey times and fewer missed appointments, while not slowing buses on their routes. It is great to see this kind of problem-solving taking place in the public sector and I hope that more London Boroughs and NHS trusts adopt the same approach in years to come.


In other TfL news, after extensive lobbying by Barnes Cllrs Marjory Millum, Fiona Sacks, and Andy Hale, along with efforts from my office and Caroline Pidgeon AM, TfL has agreed to extend the consultation on changing the 419 bus route from a Hail and Ride service to a request stop route. I know that many residents were extremely concerned that despite cancelling the consultation's second information session, TfL would push ahead with the scheme so I have been very pleased to learn they are willing to listen to the community.


The new deadline to respond to the consultation is the 11th of June and TfL will be holding a replacement event on the 6th between 2 pm and 8 pm where you can come and learn about the proposals and share your views in person should you wish. All details can be found with the link here.



IMPROVEMENTS TO NHS APP

The NHS is expanding the way the NHS App and website are used to improve how patients are empowered to choose to receive their care. After speaking with their GP, patients will be able to view information from up to five healthcare providers - filtered by distance, waiting times and quality of care.

From October, patients who have waited more than 40 weeks and have not had a date confirmed for their appointment will be asked whether they want to switch hospitals to be seen more quickly, if clinically appropriate. Currently, just one in ten patients exercise their right to choose, but some patients can cut up to three months off their waiting time by selecting a different hospital in the same region. Patients are able to check waiting times at their local hospital on the My Planned Care website.



RICHMOND NEWS


WALKING FOR WELLBEING IN RICHMOND


Local residents are invited to keep fit and healthy whilst enjoying the beautiful surroundings Richmond upon Thames has to offer through a series of coordinated, volunteer-led, friendly, social Wellbeing Walks. These are free, organised group walks for people who are currently not very active but would like to increase their physical activity.


The walks are free for all to join and run regularly through the year, six days per week. There is no need to pre-register, just turn up at the starting point fifteen minutes before the start time and introduce yourself to the Walk Leader. No special equipment is needed - just wear sturdy, comfortable footwear.


Click here for more general information about the Health Walks and here for available walks and timetables.



ST LUKES CHURCH CLIMATE CHAT


All residents are invited to come along the St Luke's Church on The Avenue, Richmond TW9 2AJ, on Thursday June 15 to join their Climate Chat. This is a follow up to their successful Kew Eco Fair and will give attendees an opportunity to find useful, practical advice for how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Speakers include Toby Costin, Director of CREW Energy, who will talk about solar panels, heat pumps and greening your home; Cllr Julia Neden-Watts: Environment Lead, Richmond Council, who will advise on recycling, food waste and composting in the borough; and Rosa Appleby Alis of Mums for Lungs, who will present on the campaign to reduce air pollution in London.


Presentations and questions for the speakers will be followed by drinks and nibbles in the Church garden (weather permitting) and a chance to network and chat all things climate! Book your place here.


KINGSTON NEWS


TEA AND TREATS - AND EXTRA TEA AND TREATS!


The much loved Tea and Treats session will be back at Swinnerton Hall next Friday, June 2 from 11:00 to 2:00. Tea and Treats offers a warm, welcoming, and inclusive space where people come together and meet others from the area. The craft table will be in full swing as usual and Elanko from Laurel Pharmacy will be offering free health checks again. They will be hosting an extra Tea and Treats event in Refugee Week on Friday, June 23 from 11:00 - 2:00, working with Refugee Action Kingston who are inviting their clients and students to the event. At this evetn there will be 'help yourself' tables offering clothes and toiletries. It is a great opportunity to encourage and introduce refugees to the monthly pop up cafe.


Swinnerton Hall is at 62 Gibbon Road, Kingston KT2 6AB. No booking is required for either event - just turn up and enjoy yourself!




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