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Richmond Park News: 26th January 2024

NEW OIL DRILLING LICENCES: OFFSHORE PETROLEUM LICENSING BILL

 

On Monday, Parliament voted on the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. I have received numerous emails from constituents on this subject, and more widely, regarding the Conservative Government’s decision to continue exploring new oil and gas opportunities despite the well-publicised environmental risks of doing so.

 

I was therefore proud to vote against this legislation, which the Energy Secretary herself has admitted will do nothing to help cut energy bills. While we do still need oil and gas in the near future, the Liberal Democrats and I are extremely concerned that the Conservative Government is failing to invest in longer term solutions to our energy crisis such as renewables or further insulation to our homes. Going forward, I will continue to advocate for a sensible energy policy which helps protect not only our national security, but also our environment as well.

 


KINSHIP CARERS VISIT

 

On Tuesday, I was visited in Parliament by two constituents, Anna and Carmen, who help organise the South West London Kinship Care Group. Together we discussed various topics, but particularly how we can better assist kinship carers to ensure they are financially and emotionally supported by the Government.

 

This is a subject on which my colleague Munira Wilson, the MP for Twickenham, has done great work, proposing a Parliamentary Bill on this subject in 2022. The Liberal Democrats would like to see a weekly allowance provided to all kinship carers at the same level as foster carers, in addition to giving them the right to paid leave when a child begins to live with them. Shockingly, there is not even a statutory definition of kinship care, and this is something which we are urgently calling on the Government to change.

 

I look forward to continuing to support the group in their work, and I hope to attend one of their sessions in Barnes soon.

 


IR35 TAX RULES

 

This week, the highly publicised case of Kaye Adams in her battle against HMRC regarding IR35 tax regulations seemingly reached a conclusion, when HMRC decided not to appeal Kaye’s latest court battle.

 

The subject of IR35 tax regulation is one I know has affected many of my constituents, and I am extremely happy to see that there has now been a resolution to this case. Back in December, during a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, I challenged the CEO of HMRC, Jim Harra, about the fact that this entire situation, which has affected hundreds of individuals, originated due to unclear guidance from his organisation.

 

Going forward, I would now like to see a complete review of all IR35 rules, in addition to an end to retrospective tax charges brought in by the Conservatives such as the loan charge.



TONY'S CHOCOLONELY

This week, Tony’s Chocoloney held an event in Parliament to highlight their work in sustainable cocoa production, and their campaign against deforestation. Tony's mission is to highlight the inequality in the cocoa trade and the conditions many cocoa farmers live in. Having visited their U.K. HQ in Richmond last year, it was a pleasure to drop in and not only see some familiar faces, but also pick up a few chocolatey treats as well.

I look forward to seeing Tony’s team again soon!



GET BRITAIN GROWING REPORT

 

On Wednesday, I sponsored a Parliamentary reception for Mastercard to promote their new ‘Get Britain Growing’ report.

 

As the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Treasury and Business, getting our economy growing again is one of my top priorities. It was therefore a pleasure to provide some brief opening remarks as to how important it is that the private sector works hand in hand with Government to this end, and again reiterated my call for the Conservatives to produce an industrial strategy to set out a roadmap for growth.

 

I look forward to continuing to engage with industry in the coming months as we build towards publishing the Liberal Democrat manifesto ahead of the General Election.




 

BUS DELAYS


I've been receiving reports in recent weeks that the 371 bus serving North Kingston, Ham and Richmond has been increasingly delayed with some residents waiting up to half an hour for a service which should come every 8-11 minutes. This comes on the back of the 533, serving Barnes and Mortlake towards Hammersmith, becoming even more unreliable, a particular problem as the service is supposed to function as a public transport link to Hammersmith while Hammersmith Bridge remains shut.


While I suspect part of the cause of the 371's degraded service has been a series of roadworks slowing traffic in the constituency, TfL still has a duty to provide a reliable and frequent service. As such, I've reached out to TfL to ask that they explain the issues on both routes and to my colleagues on the London Assembly to ask that they intercede with the Mayor and TfL and ensure these services do not get even worse.


I know that some residents have found that apps like City Mapper have not been able to keep track of these delays. If you have had this experience, I have found that TfL's own application TfL Go has ben quite accurate in recent days and may be of help to residents.



HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: A CASE FOR THE FULL REPAIRS


With the cost of Hammersmith Bridge's repairs rising, there are many who have raised the question of whether the project should continue, or if it should simply be left as a walking and cycling bridge. This week, I published an opinion in Richmond Nub News arguing that, while this latter option has merits, it would not be the right call for our community.


Alongside the obvious implications for congestion in Mortlake, East Sheen, and heading further towards Putney, buses and emergency vehicles need to be returned to the bridge as soon as possible. Furthermore, I have not seen any evidence that the initial stabilising works would function as a long term fix. If the strengthening works do not happen, we could well be in a situation several years down the line where the bridge has to be closed entirely, with even less political will from decision makers to get it reopened. Finally, I do not believe we should be cutting car usage by closing major transport infrastructure. While I would like to see fewer cars on our roads, it is undeniable they will continue to play an essential part in people's lives for years to come. We should instead be investing in public transport, expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, and making sure cycling is safe across the capital.


You can read the full piece on Richmond Nub News' website here.



RESTORING THE KEW HA-HA


The ha-ha outside of Old Deer Sports Ground on Kew Road is thought to have been built as part of a landscaping project for Queen Charlotte in the 18th century. Despite its historical significance, the current site is dilapidated. In its current state, the ha-ha could easily be mistaken for a ditch on the side of the road, as overgrown plants, fallen bricks and discarded litter have become unfortunately prevalent features of this once beautiful and historic site.

 

Habitats and Heritage, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and Old Deer Park Sports Ground are working with the local community to renovate the area. Their aim is to create a wildlife corridor along the ha-ha which could attract animals such as badgers and beetles. I'd like to thank Cllr. Nancy Baldwin for all her efforts towards restoring this site. It is a huge project but many hands make light work.


Volunteers are needed to help plant pollinator friendly plants and to help to remove the rubbish along the ha-ha. If you want to get involved with the restoration effort, join the public meeting on Wednesday 31st January, from 6 to 7pm, at the Old Deer Park Sports Ground, Lions and Dragons suite. If you aren't able to volunteer, you can also donate to this project here.





MANOR CIRCUS ROADWORKS


This week, I received an update on the Manor Circus Roadworks from TfL's team. Unfortunately, due to a burst water main at the site, work on the roundabout was delayed by several weeks. This work is now due to end in February, and following this, TfL's team will be able to complete the remaining bridge deck works.


The second phase of the works is due to begin in March, when the focus of works will be on delivery of road safety improvements at the junction, including upgraded pedestrian crossings, wider footways, cycle facilities, and carriageway resurfacing. This work should cause less disruption to the road network than the initial bridge deck work, as TfL aim to return the junction to operation as a roundabout.



BAKING APPEAL FOR KINGSTON HOSPITAL


Local charity RBKares, has launched an appeal for people to bake for Kingston Hospital. This is a wonderful initiative through which members of the local community bake cakes and other sweet treats which are delivered to doctors and nurses who have been battling through incredibly difficult shifts and long hours.


Growing pressures on Hospital staff have prompted the group to see if they can bake more for the hospital. While it is a small gesture, the doctor who launched the initiative has highlighted what a difference it makes to the recipients knowing the community is thinking of them.


If you can help by baking something (with a list of ingredients on it please) RBKares and its volunteers can drop them at the hospital. Sweet or savoury - both would be very welcome. Please drop to 46 Norbiton Avenue or 25 Deacon Road. 



PREVENTING SELF HARM AND SUICIDE IN YOUNG PEOPLE


Mental health issues have become an epidemic amongst our young people, 1 in 6 people aged 5-16 feel like their mental health is getting worse, and amongst those with mental health issues, a quarter have self harmed in some way.


To help combat this shocking rise, the Richmond and Kingston Councils have launched a service called Portus to help support young people and those who care for them. Through the website, you can access helplines, resources, and services to help improve your mental wellbeing and I would urge anyone with children, even if they are well, to have a look and familiarise yourself with the tools available to you.


You can access the Portus website here. If you have a safeguarding concern about a young person, you can call both council's safeguarding team on 020 8547 5008 during office hours and 0208 770 5000 outside of them if it is an emergency.







 

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