On Wednesday, the long-awaited Sue Gray report into parties in Downing Street during lockdown was released. The report confirmed that the Prime Minister broke the law by attending illegal gatherings while millions of other Britons made sacrifices to follow the rules he laid down. I was particularly appalled to read that several of the gatherings in Downing Street involved fighting and disrespect shown to security and cleaning staff. Clearly the culture of personal and social responsibility that existed in communities like Richmond Park throughout the pandemic did not exist in Downing Street. There is only one person who can reasonably be held responsible for that.
I firmly believe that the Prime Minister’s arrogance, dishonesty and poor judgment make him unfit to be our leader, especially at a time of economic crisis. It is for this reason that I remain clear in my position that the Prime Minister should resign. You can hear me discussing the report on BBC Radio London here.
COST OF LIVING CRISIS
Yesterday, the Chancellor announced the further measures he would be taking to combat the cost-of-living crisis. This announcement came after it was revealed on Wednesday that household energy bills would increase by a further £800 in October. I welcome this support for families, which includes:
A £400 energy rebate for every UK household in October.
£650 of direct payments for every household on means-tested benefits, which includes up to 8 million people.
An extra £300 for every pensioner receiving the winter fuel payment
A further £150 for those receiving disability benefits.
This will be partly funded by the introduction of a new 25% ‘windfall tax’ on energy companies. The Liberal Democrats first proposed a windfall tax back in October 2021. If our proposal had been introduced then we could have seen nearly £11billion raised, rather than the £5billion raised by the Government plan. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see the Government has finally listened to us.
I would also liked to have seen an emergency cut to the top rate of VAT from 20% to 17.5%, which would have saved the average UK household around £600 per year. I welcome the introduction of these measures, but believe more can still be done to help address the cost-of-living crisis. You can see me discussing how the crisis is affecting Richmond Park on BBC London here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
On Wednesday, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) issued a prior information notice (PIN) to ‘invite expressions of interest to participate in a short market consultation exercise’ from potential contractors, equity investors and debt providers with construction experience, regarding the pending strengthening works on Hammersmith Bridge.
This information marks a clear indication from LBHF that they are looking for external funding solutions to resolve the dispute over the funding for the strengthening works. This is a welcome step, and shows a strong willingness to make progress in moving towards a full re-opening of the bridge.
However, neither myself, nor the Hammersmith Bridge Task Force were made aware of this proposal prior to publication, and I have therefore urged the group to meet so I can provide residents with full transparency as to what this development entails in its entirety.
PASSPORT OFFICE DELAYS
On Monday, in my role on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I challenged Home Office officials regarding the delays many are facing to their passport applications. I was assured that the Home Office is working to address the problem, and received a guarantee that they are working hard to ensure every application is returned within a 10 week period.
I will continue to hold the Government to this commitment. In the meantime, I advise my constituents to make every effort to check and double check their passport applications before submission to ensure your passport is not held up by errors. You can see my question to the Government here.
UKRAINIAN REFUGEE ASSISTANCE
Also at PAC this week, I questioned officials regarding disparity in support available for local authorities who are accepting refugees under the Family Scheme rather than the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
I was informed that the Government is aware of this and will work with local authorities regarding the problem. You can see the clip here.
In March we sent a letter from all Liberal Democrat MPs to the Cabinet Office. The letter reflects our experiences in assisting constituents during the consecutive crises of the coronavirus pandemic, the Afghanistan evacuation, and the war in Ukraine. We have also raised issues to do with the granting of visas and problems with the Home Office and UKVI on 17 occasions.
On a positive note, I am pleased to report that Richmond Council has commissioned dedicated support worker at the Citizen Advice Bureau to offer advice and support to Ukrainian refugees in the area. You can see more about this here.
Last Friday I was pleased to visit a Ukraine cafe for refugees at Vineyard Community, hosted jointly with the Prosperity Cafe in Twickenham and Refugees Welcome in Richmond. All three organisation have worked tirelessly to support people arriving in Richmond from Ukraine, and it was inspiring to see how their close working has benefited our new residents. It was an honour to meet with refugees and hear their stories. They were keen to tell me how grateful they are for the help they have received here. One of the people I met from Prosperity Cafe, Ukrainian Social Club leader and dance teacher Alina Luts, is participating in a dance showcase this Sunday at the Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford. The showcase is a benefit for the Chiswick charity Move Into Wellbeing, but Alina's Ukrainian folk dance classes will be performing, including some members who are recent arrivals from Ukraine. If you would like to see some Ukrainian folk dance and support a local charity, click here for tickets.
VISIT TO ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL
I also visited to the Royal Ballet School last Friday. We discussed the Royal Parks Movement Strategy, which will affect the school particularly, given its location inside the park. They have set up a variety of outreach programmes and associate programmes throughout the country to ensure young dancers from all over the country have an opportunity to attend this prestigious ballet school.
HAM AND PETERSHAM COFFEE MORNING MAY 30
There are a few spaces left at my Ham and Petersham coffee morning at 10:00 on Monday, May 30 at a location in Ham. If you would like to join me for a brief update on my work as your MP followed by questions and discussion on topics of interest to attendees, please click here.
KEW RETAIL PARK CONSULTATION
On Wednesday I attended the consultation session on the future of the Kew Retail Park site at the National Archives. I was very interested to hear what the developers have in mind for the site. They have planned further community engagement events for residents interested in talking with them. The first is a weekend of drop-in events:
Kew Retail Park Community Planning Weekend
Friday 24 & Saturday 25 June 2022
The National Archives, Bessant Drive, Kew TW9 4DU
Following that weekend, the will present a Report Back at 7.15pm on Tuesday 5 July 2022, also at the National Archives. They then intend to develop the proposals and draw up a planning application for submission in summer 2023. I encourage my Kew residents to get involved and have their say in these early conversations. You can see more about these events here.
LOCAL POLICING NEWS
The Met Police has asked me to pass on some of their recent news from this area.
A man was found guilty of robbery and attempted robbery this week. Both offences occurred on the 27th of March 2022 at two shops in central Richmond. He was sentenced for 48 months and 16 months concurrent imprisonment by Kingston Crown Court.
Earlier this week a section 35 Dispersal Order was put in place covering Kew Bridge, Kew Green and surrounds on the 22nd May between 1100hrs and 2300hrs as a result of football at Brentford FC. This is an order which allows the police to order someone to leave an area because of anti-social behaviour.
The North Richmond team is looking for a resident willing to be Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for Tower Rise and Lenton Rise. This is a voluntary role to help disperse information from police to a local neighbourhood watch. If you are interested and live in the area please contact: NorthRichmond@met.police.uk
The Met Police also wanted to tell residents about the Volunteer Police Cadets for young people. Many of these pupils undertake a Duke of Edinburgh Award with them, and this week were recognized for their achievement in passing their award at Buckingham Palace. If you know a young person who would like to join, visit: https://vpc.police.uk/ for more information.
Each of our neighbourhoods has dedicated officers by ward. If you would like to contact your local team, or if you are unsure of which local team is yours please visit our website. You can also find your local neighbourhood policing team on Twitter. I strongly encourage the community to email the local ward teams with any intelligence or information relating to any crime or ASB that they witness.
JUBILEE PLANS FOR KINGSTON AND RICHMOND
As part of Kingston borough’s commemoration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Monday, the previous Mayor of Kingston, Sushila Abraham unveiled a new visitor information board installed near the Coronation Stone. The Coronation Stone has also been refurbished and a new walking trail - the Jubilee Trail, launched. The route visits a number of important places marking Kingston’s history across the borough. Many thanks to the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service for revising the route. To find out more, visit their Platinum Jubilee homepage.
Richmond Council has waived street closure fees for 331 street parties throughout May and June, and over 100 grants have been given to residents and local groups to help fund street parties and support The Big Jubilee Lunch and other commemorative events. Explore the full list of public events taking place across Richmond to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee here and download the Platinum Jubilee map.
SURVEY ABOUT PHARMACY SERVICES
NHS South West London has a new survey for residents share your views on how you use a pharmacy, to help them with a future campaign. If you live, work, or study in South West London, they would like to hear from you. They want to know why people visit pharmacies, and whether people know about the range of services on offer. other services including healthy living advice. CLICK HERE to complete the survey, which closes on 30 May.
SURVEY OF UNPAID CARERS
All unpaid carers are invited to contribute views to the Community Health Action Programme in a new survey being done in collaboration with the Public Health team at Richmond Council. This will inform work currently being done as part of the Community Health Action programme, aimed at understanding the impact of the pandemic and the current health and wellbeing needs of residents, as well as providing opportunities to co-produce sustainable solutions with the Council and other local organisations. Feedback received will be shared with you via the organisation conducting the research. CLICK HERE to complete the survey, which closes on Friday 3 June.
RICHMOND COUNCIL LOCAL BUSINESS SUPPORT
Richmond Council has expanded its business support programme to boost the local economy, provide businesses with new skills, and improve business networking within the borough. The new programme builds on the success of The Phoenix Enterprise Programme, which offered free business support to start-ups and early-stage growth businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase of the programme supported 800 local businesses.
Now, The Phoenix Enterprise Programme 2.0 is taking business support to a whole new level and is offering businesses in Richmond upon Thames five new support programmes for free:
1. A programme for those wishing to start a business
2. A mentorship programme for existing businesses that want to scale to new heights
3. A recruitment and staff management programme for the hospitality and leisure sector to help the sector attract and retain the best staff on the market
4. A digital skills programme to boost eCommerce and online marketing
5. A creative programme to connect all creatives in Richmond upon Thames
These five programmes will run until February 2023, giving businesses plenty of opportunity to get involved, build new connections, and increase success.
You can find out more about each support programme and apply on the dedicated website.
KINGFISHER LEISURE CENTRE PLANS APPROVED!
I am pleased to report that the plans for Kingston’s brand new community leisure complex have been approved by the Council. Residents can look forward to state-of-the-art leisure and community facilities right in the heart of Kingston as plans for the town’s new leisure complex were approved by Planning Committee yesterday.
With 5-a-side rooftop football pitches, two swimming pools with spectator seating, a children’s splash deck and climbing wall, as well as flexible community spaces, a cafe and much more, the scheme will deliver inclusive facilities fit for the 21st Century. This scheme is a major part of the council’s ‘Transform Kingston’ programme and sits at the heart of the council’s heritage-led regeneration of the town centre. Improvements to the public space around the new complex will connect it more effectively with the neighbouring historic library and museum, with the aim of attracting more residents and visitors to come and experience Kingston’s unique history and culture.
Work to demolish the old leisure centre will start this summer as preparations to deliver the new facility begin on site. I am delighted to see this project moving along to its next phase and look forward to watching the tranformation.