Richmond Park News: 4 November 2022
I hope that my young constituents who celebrate Halloween enjoyed themselves this week. It was a pleasure to see children and young people out having fun in their creative costumes, and residents opening their doors to neighbours again after two Covid Halloweens.
The Met Police were out doing their part to keep the event safe, with 32 Special Constables working across the area. They had a busy but successful shift on Saturday the 29th in our popular town centres. On behalf of my constituents I thank these volunteers for the time they dedicate to community safety.
I wish everyone a pleasant Bonfire Night, while asking my constituents to enjoy this event safely as well. Fires and fireworks can be dangerous, and can disturb neighbours and pets if they are not approached with consideration. If you want to brush up on the laws around fireworks, click here.
DEBATE ON THE UK INFRASTRUCTURE BANK
On Tuesday, I spoke in a debate on the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill. This legislation is the final stage in establishing the UK Infrastructure Bank; a state-owned investment bank that will finance infrastructure projects to tackle climate change and support local economic growth.
This Bank is very similar to the Green Investment Bank (GIB), a Liberal Democrat initiative in the Coalition Government. The GIB was successful in its first three years, but was sold off by the Conservatives in 2015. I welcome the return of a public investment bank, while lamenting the missed opportunities for investment over the last seven years.
The Bank will provide £22 billion of infrastructure finance over the next five years. However, much more investment is needed to meet our climate objectives. In the debate, I urged the Government to show more ambition when it comes to the green agenda - to commit to achieving net zero by 2045 rather than 2050 and establish a proper green industrial strategy. You can see a clip of my contribution here.
FAILURE OF THE ENERGY PROFITS LEVY
In May the Government finally agreed to impose a windfall tax on the excess profits of oil and gas companies, as the Liberal Democrats had been calling for since October 2021. However, this tax – the Energy Profits Levy includes an ‘Investment Allowance’ which enables companies to significantly reduce their tax bill by making investments in further oil and gas exploration.
Both Shell and BP recently announced their profits for the third quarter of 2022, which are more than double those recorded in the same period last year. Shell recorded profits of £8.2 billion, but will not pay any windfall tax thanks to the Investment Allowance. BP will pay £714 million through the windfall levy this year, despite profits surging to £7.1 billion in the last 3 months.
I believe that such figures show the Government’s levy is an inadequate tool to tax the record-breaking profits of oil and gas firms. The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly called for the Government to introduce a stronger windfall tax, which we estimate could raise £60 billion over the next three years. My comments on this were included in the Evening Standard – click here to read the article.
PAC REPORT ON GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
This week, the Public Accounts Committee, on which I sit, released its report on ‘Public Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions’. The report is the result of an inquiry which looked into the efforts each Government Department is making to hit their net zero targets, in order to hit our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
The report was extremely critical of the way the Government is handling this target, and particularly the way emissions are being measured and reported. This is largely due to lack of clear guidelines, in addition to poor enforcement of standards from the Department of Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy.
As the Lead Member on the report, I gave a number of interviews explaining the findings, where I repeated the Committee’s calls for stricter reporting criteria, in an effort to ensure the public sector is setting a clear example on net zero targets. You can see a clip of me discussing the report here, and should you wish to read the report or find out more about the Committee, you can do so here.
On Thursday, I had the chance to sit down with Leigh White, the publican of the Grey Horse in Kingston, and John Dale from Punch Pubs, to discuss the challenges they are facing this winter. The Grey Horse is one of 1200 venues owned by Punch Pubs and it, like many restaurants and bars across the country, is suffering from the compounded effects of staff shortages and the rising cost of energy.
What is extremely apparent is how vital the next six weeks will be for the hospitality sector. It was interesting to learn that they hope to make between 30-35% of their revenue for the year in this single period and if people are unable to eat and drink out, many businesses will likely fold. I’ve said before that pubs are more than just businesses, for some residents, they are the heart and soul of the local community. To see a wave of closures would be an enormous blow to Richmond Park.
We need to urgently support small businesses with their energy bills, especially in vulnerable sectors like hospitality. More than this, we need to give business owners some certainty that they will be protected beyond the initial six-month price guarantee. If you own a business and are worried about the rising cost of energy, I urge you to visit Richmond or Kingston Council’s cost-of-living hub. These services have been designed to centralise all the support on offer and may be able to help you through the winter. You can access Richmond’s hub here, and Kingston’s hub here.
I was recently pleased to speak with a group of owners of small shops in North Kingston, who have been encouraged by councillors Anne Owen and Susan Skipwith to form a traders' association. This would give them more access to grants and support, as well as foster collective action to encourage visits to their stores. I encourage my constituents to 'Make Christmas Local', and support small traders this winter.
Last week, I had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon of the Handyman Station's new e-cargo bike. Boosting green jobs and promoting active travel are two of my top priorities, and it's wonderful to see businesses investing in clean, sustainable transport like this innovative new vehicle. Handyman Station is based on Mortlake High Street and does all types of home repair across the area.
On Thursday I joined the Mortlake and Barnes White Ribbon Walk, led by Mayor of Richmond Upon Thames Julia Cambridge and Council Leader Gareth Roberts. The march was organised by Cllr Ben Khosa, RIchmond Council's White Ribbon Champion, as part of the borough's effort to raise awareness of the need for everyone to be a part of making the streets safe. I was pleased to see men of all ages there to show their commitment to women's safety; one young resident told me he really appreciated the emphasis on everyone working in a unified way.
To help women and girls feel safer on the streets, the Richmond Safer Neighbourhood Board has just issued an updated version of their Go Girl leaflet, which reminds women and girls that the streets belong to them too, and encourages them to practice some very simple exercises to empower them to act if something feels wrong. You can find the leaflet here.
I was deeply saddened to read of the tragedy in Seoul last Saturday. With a large and thriving Korean community in New Malden many of my constituents will have been affected by this tragic event.
Residents are invited to come together to pray for the victims of the Itaewon tragedy and their families
at Jubilee Square, New Malden KT3 4AH, at 10:00 am on Saturday 5 November (tomorrow.)
The Korean community has prepared places of condolence for those who wish to pay respects, as below:
Korean Community Centre -- 108-110 Coombe Lane, West Wimbledon, London SW20 0AY
Korean Culture & Art Centre -- 143 High street, New Malden KT3 4BH
Jubilee Square -- Cocks Crescent, New Malden KT3 4AH
Floral tributes may also be laid at the sites above.
For anyone interested in learning more about our local Korean community and contemporary Korean culture, the Victoria and Albert Museum has an exhibition running until June called "Hallyu! The Korean Wave." The exhibition includes a section celebrating the Korean community in New Malden. Details can be found here.