Rishi Sunak was selected by Conservative MPs to be the new Prime Minister on Monday, and he has now formed a new Government.
Although I do not agree with the Prime Minister's goals for the country, the appointment of the first British Prime minister from an Asian background is a historic moment. The UK’s rich diversity is one of its greatest strengths, and I am pleased to see that diversity reflected in Downing Street. The timing of the Prime Minister’s appointment was especially meaningful to many British Asians, coinciding with Diwali.
I am eagerly awaiting the Mid-Term Fiscal Statement and OBR forecast, which has now been pushed back to 17 November. This will set out the state of the country’s finances and plans for public spending. The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to increase benefits and pensions in line with inflation, and to safeguard the budgets of our vital health and education services.
This week, four impressive sixth-form students from local schools have been in my office for work experience. They will be writing the rest of my newsletter as part of a special takeover edition. I hope you enjoy their work!
This week we had the privilege to be offered a work experience placement by Sarah and her amazing team. We spent two days in her Parliamentary office and a further two days in her constituency office in Mortlake. It’s been an eye-opening experience learning about the intricacies of balancing party and constituency politics. Representing the Liberal Democrats' policy and more importantly Sarah’s political views is what her team, and us this week, really strive to achieve.
Simply walking around Parliament and the conjoining Portcullis house gave us a feel for the importance and scale of Sarah’s job, inspiring us, the next generation, to really get involved in politics. We saw first hand how the mandate you as constituents gave Sarah to represent our constituency is used; through highlighting key public issues such as ambulance response times and midwife shortages. Sarah and her team also tirelessly bring up the prevalent issues raised by yourselves with the relevant ministers through letters and in the chamber. They are really able to move the political dial, influencing these issues through exposure and so fulfilling Sarah’s duty of holding the government accountable. Recently becoming a senior Liberal Democrat figure as spokesperson on the treasury and business, we observed how Sarah has also broadened her influence on national issues such as the energy crisis, transport and the environment.
Before we get into this week's news, on behalf of us, Sarah and the team, we wish a happy Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas and Saal Mubarak to everyone who has been celebrating this week.
Sam, Keeley, Aljaz and Bea
TRANSPORT SPEECH IN THE CHAMBER
On Monday, Sarah raised an urgent question in Parliament on the future of Great British Railways (GBR). Last week, the Transport Secretary announced that the Government's plans to overhaul the railway system through the creation of a new public body, GBR, would be delayed. GBR is now not expected to be operational until 2024. Once created, GBR will set timetables and prices, manage the rail infrastructure and issue contracts to private operators.
Sarah challenged Minister Kevin Foster to freeze ticket fares to, as she pointed out, ease the impacts of the cost of living crisis and help in the fight against climate change. While Sarah recognises the steps forward taken with this idea, this being delayed due to the new transport bill being scrapped is yet another sign of the government’s neglect of transport.
These problems can even be traced back to when Labour was in charge and represent the failure to create a sustainable, accessible, environmental and robust transport infrastructure. The Liberal Democrats believe we need a five-year freeze on train fares to build back the public’s trust in our transport and subsequently reduce carbon emissions. We would hope that the government implements a reform of the broken ticketing and fares system so it's cheaper and provides better value for money for passengers. You can listen to Sarah’s speech here.
In response to Rishi Sunak's first Prime Minister's Questions, Sarah participated in an interview with Martin Stanford from LBC News. In this interview, Sarah mentions the financial sensitivity UK markets are currently experiencing as a result of the fleeting leadership of Liz Truss. Sarah also called on the Government to clarify whether they will uprate benefits and state pensions in line with inflation, prior to the Mid-Term Fiscal Statement on 17 November. Sarah addressed her concerns about the re-appointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary despite resigning over a security breach which broke the Ministerial Code. This does not reflect the Prime Minister vowing to lead the Government with integrity. To listen to this podcast, click here.
During our time in Parliament, we collaborated as a team to help draft a letter from Sarah to constituents who have communal heating systems. We understand the severity of this issue and how it highlights the way the government has failed to treat the British public fairly and equally. We researched the impacts this specific heating system will have experienced and included in the letter relevant updates. After the letter was finalised and approved, we identified residents likely to want this information, then printed, stuffed and sealed 500 letters to them.
POLICING IN MORTLAKE AND RICHMOND
During our work experience week, we have assisted Sarah’s team in sending out letters on policing to Mortlake residents. These letters comprise a short update about the steps being undertaken in Mortlake to deal with antisocial behaviour. The police have been listening, and in response they have:
Brought the Mortlake and Barnes Common Safer Neighbourhood Team back to full strength
Placed two more CCTV cameras in high traffic areas to build up intelligence and identify criminals
Senior police officers are working with constituents to secure properties, reduce drug usage and tackle crime
Following the introduction of a Section 35 Dispersal Order in Richmond, Kingston and Twickenham last weekend, Richmond's police Inspector has contacted Sarah to report that did not receive any reports of anti-social behaviour from youths in Richmond last weekend.
There were approximately 200 – 300 youths in Richmond last Friday. Police were present and visible on the Green, the Terrace and Kew Road. About 100 drinks were seized by Park Guard, but there was less evidence of youths being under the influence of alcohol.
Richmond Police also undertook licensing visits last Friday morning. Shop owners reported that large amounts of alcohol had been stolen on previous Fridays when youths were present. The police gave shop owners crime prevention advice. Another Section 35 Dispersal Order will be authorised for this weekend.
Whilst more can be done in the local community, we do feel as if we are moving in the right direction. The London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames is working hard to tackle crime - and they are interested in residents' views. If you would be interested in sharing yours, feel free to fill out their survey here.
As we are all aware, Hammersmith Bridge is undergoing massive reconstruction. This has caused traffic problems as cars and lorries have been directed away from the bridge. The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF), has selected a “double decker” solution to go forward, for the strengthening of the bridge.
So what does this mean? It will lead to the creation of temporary platforms over the current bridge to facilitate bikes, pedestrians and some motor traffic whilst the main bridge undergoes repairs. In the same breath of this announcement, LBHF has also said crossing the bridge will lead to a toll being demanded. Whilst no declaration about how much this toll will be, early estimates place it at £3.
Whilst many residents will be fine with the toll Sarah is concerned that residents in Richmond will not get a say in this matter. If the toll is to be applied, it must be applied fairly, reasonably and allow for necessary exceptions. Therefore, the process of the decision around the toll should be made openly, not behind closed doors as has happened up till now.
Sarah sends regular updates on Hammersmith Bridge, and if you would like to keep up with the news feel free to email her at email@example.com.