HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR!
A very happy Year of the Tiger to all my constituents celebrating Lunar New Year! I trust everyone will find a joyful way to mark the beginning of what I sincerely hope will be a wonderful year for all.
EDUCATION CATCH UP AND MENTAL HEALTH
Yesterday in the House we had a backbench business debate on the effectiveness of the government’s education catch-up and mental health recovery programmes.
This is the number one issue for parents and schools in our constituency: young people's mental health and the impact lockdowns have had on our children.
I have heard from teachers about about four and five year olds who are suffering extreme separation anxiety from their parents, primary school children who don't know how to play with one another, and secondary school students living with the negative consequences of too much social media.
Our teachers are amazing, but they are not trained mental health professionals and shouldn't be expected to fill that role. We need to broaden the mental health resources available in the community, including access to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and mental health nurses in schools. We also need to give parents more options and advice on where they can go in the community for support.
RESPONDING TO THE ENERGY CRISIS
Yesterday’s announcement by Ofgem of a 54% increase in the energy price cap will have doubtless caused anxiety for working families both in the constituency and across the country.
Along with the forthcoming National Insurance rise and train fare increase, we are in the midst of a devastating cost-of-living crisis -- one which requires urgent, meaningful action. Regrettably, the measures announced by the Chancellor yesterday fall short of what is needed. His policies will only spread the pain for families over the coming years, and involve a risky gamble that energy prices will fall.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a windfall tax on the super profits of gas and oil producers and traders to fund support for vulnerable households struggling to pay their energy bills. We estimate this would save lower income families an estimated £1,000 a year. We would also double the Warm Homes Discount, scrap the planned National Insurance tax hike and ensure low-income families can access cheaper broadband deals.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise these issues in the House on Tuesday.
To see part of my speech explaining why I am supporting a windfall tax on oil and gas producers, please click here.
To see me explaining the Liberal Democrats' proposed support measures for people on low incomes, please click here.
To read my full remarks on the windfall tax, and our proposals on the Warm Home discount and other support measures for people in fuel poverty, please click here.
To read my full remarks on energy demand and the urgent need for the Government to look at the wider cost of living crisis, please click here.
VISIT TO ST RICHARD'S PRIMARY SCHOOL IN HAM
Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting St Richard's Primary School in Ham. I was invited to join Mr Chapman's lively Year 6 class to discuss politics with the pupils. The children were very interested in talking about topical issues. We talked about climate change and using less energy in our houses, and they were interested to learn about the recent bill that came through Parliament on British Sign Language. I really enjoyed the conversation and I thank the school for inviting me to hear their pupils' thoughts.
I recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Transport (DfT) to get some confirmation on how often the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce has been meeting. This week I was told that from the Taskforce’s creation in September 2020 until the bridge’s partial reopening in July 2021, it met 14 times at a rate of once every 20.6 days. Since then, it has met three times at a rate of once every 67 days. In my opinion, given the disruption the bridge’s closure is still causing to my constituents, this is inexcusable. I am working to bring further pressure to bear on the DfT by raising this in the media.
I have also heard back from Hammersmith & Fulham Council (LBHF) who have confirmed that a Business Case has been submitted to the DfT for the bridge’s stabilisation works. My understanding is that the Business Case will now go through the DfT’s approval processes which, once cleared, will allow for the release of funding from both the DfT and TfL, per last year’s tripartite cost-sharing agreement. However, LBHF have explained to me that as they are keen not to lose any time in making the bridge permanently stable to carry pedestrians and cyclists, they have proceeded with approving the capital spend for the Stabilisation Plan in anticipation of the DfT releasing their one-third of the funding. More information can be found on this page, underneath the heading, ‘Fixing the bridge – new stabilisation plan saves £21m’.
COFFEE MORNING FOR BARNES RESIDENTS AT WETLAND CENTRE
My next live event for constituents will be a coffee morning for Barnes residents on Thursday, February 17 at 10:30am. The London Wetland Centre, one of Richmond Park's natural wonders, has kindly offered to host this event for the local community.
You are invited to join me on the 17th for a brief update on what I am doing as your MP, followed by questions and discussion on national and local issues of interest to attendees. Attendees must register in advance on my website here. I hope you will join me.
Saffron, the young constituent who made daisies for her neighbours to put in their windows in the first lockdown to draw the community together, has written to say she has been busy with a new project. She is making painted snowflakes this time and posting them to anyone who makes a donation to Northwood African Education Foundation from Saffron's JustGiving page. Well done to Saffron and do look out for her snowflakes in windows, especially in Mortlake!
MENTAL HEALTH NOTEBOOK
Mental Health Notebook is a new mental health organisation run by teenagers for teenagers. Their goal is to spread awareness of mental health challenges and provide support to other teenagers. They have an Instagram account @mentalhealth.notebook, and they have written to me to invite local young people to check out their teen-created mental health content there.
CLINICAL STUDY ON ANTIVIRAL TREATMENTS FOR COVID-!9
PANORAMIC is a UK-wide clinical study sponsored by Oxford University and the National Institute for Health Research to find out who could be helped most by new antiviral treatments. They are recruiting volunteers, whether they have been vaccinated or not, to join the study. The study is open to people with ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 and a positive PCR or lateral flow test. You can participate in your own home from anywhere in the UK; no face-to-face visits are required.
You are eligible to join PANORAMIC if you are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms beginning in the last 5 days and you have had a positive PCR or Lateral Flow test for COVID-19, and you are aged 50 or over, or aged 18 or over with a LISTED pre-existing condition. More information is available here.
HOUSEHOLD SUPPORT FUND FOR PEOPLE ON LOW INCOMES
The Household Support Fund is a fund administered by Citizens Advice Richmond and Richmond Aid on behalf of the Council that provides funding for low-income households to support them with a range of things including food, bills, white goods repairs/replacement, clothing and school supplies for children. There is more detail about the fund and eligibility here. The closing date is at the end of March.
APPLY FOR A STREET PARTY PERMIT TO CELEBRATE THE JUBILEE
Richmond Council has announced that it has waived the administration fee for street party road closures this summer, to help residents celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The UK will mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee with a four-day bank holiday weekend from 2 to 5 June 2022. Buckingham Palace has announced details of the Jubilee celebrations which include a pudding competition, a Service of Thanksgiving, a concert and the lighting of Platinum Jubilee beacons across the UK.
Residents can apply to close their street to through-traffic and celebrate the Platinum Jubilee with neighbours, friends and family. The waiving of street party fees applies to residents of residential streets only. Applications are now open and will close on 30 April 2022 for anyone wishing to hold a street party over the bank holiday weekend of 2-5 June 2022. More info can be found here.
CAN YOU OFFER AN AFFORDABLE HOME?
The Council is committed to providing a sanctuary to those fleeing crises across the world, such as in Afghanistan. To ensure they can provide suitable housing to refugees as well as house local people wanting to buy or rent in the borough, Councillor Andreas Kirsch, the Leader of Kingston Council, is calling on private landlords with empty properties in Kingston to come forward and help. Guaranteed income is available through Council schemes, as well as incentives Find out more and let them know if you can help.
ACTION AGAINST FLY TIPPING
As part of the SCRAP IT campaign to reduce fly tipping, the council's waste contractor, Veolia, will be raising awareness of what counts as fly tipping this Saturday (10am - 2pm) in the Ancient Market Place. They will be in town talking to passers-by about fly tipping and answering questions such as: What is fly tipping? How do I report a fly tip? How much can I be fined for fly tipping? How can I get rid of my bulky waste? They will also show an example of what a fly tip could look like and how people can dispose of things responsibly.