THE GOVERNMENT'S ENERGY STRATEGY
Yesterday the government finally announced its much-anticipated, though somewhat disappointing energy strategy. The measures announced are little more than vague intentions, with minimal substantive policy or spending commitments. Critically, there was nothing announced to help families and pensioners suffering from sky-high heating bills today or the even higher bills coming down the line. People need help now, and we need a long term energy policy that will keep bills down, make the UK more energy independent and tackle climate change. Frustratingly, none of these ambitions is covered by this “new” strategy.
Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to create an urgent energy insulation programme, invest in onshore wind, and properly back new technologies like tidal and hydrogen. I was on BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, where I had the opportunity to get into some of the detail, outline what is missing from the strategy, and put forward the Liberal Democrats’ plan to improve our provision of renewables. Click here to see part of my contribution.
NATIONAL INSURANCE RISE
On Wednesday the first stage of the National Insurance (NI) reforms began, with the rate for employees going up by 1.25%. Analysis by the Evening Standard shows that Londoners are twice as likely to be made worse off by the shake-up than those living elsewhere. Liberal Democrat research – also covered by the Evening Standard - suggests that Londoners, who already contribute 20% of NI despite representing only 13% of the UK population, will have to pay an extra £880 million this year. The tax hike itself breaks a Conservative manifesto pledge. By going through with it, the government is making the cost of living crisis even worse and inflicting misery on people who are already struggling to make ends meet. Liberal Democrat plans for an emergency cut to VAT would save families £600, keep prices down, and give our high street businesses the boost they need.
Additional Liberal Democrat research shows that British pubs, restaurants and hotels will be forced to pay £216 million more in taxes this year as a result of the tax rise. Workers, specifically, will be hit with an extra £137 million bill this year. After all the pain over the past two years this tax hike is the last thing London hospitality businesses need. I was glad to see our research covered by City AM.
DEBATING LONDON TRANSPORT ON BBC RADIO
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join a number of London Assembly Members on BBC Radio London to discuss the transport challenges facing our city. One issue I was particularly keen to discuss was Transport for London funding. Londoners are fed up with the political dispute between the Department for Transport and the London Mayor. We need the government to step up with the kind of support it provided to rail companies throughout the pandemic, so that London can get moving with the fully-funded transport network we need to tackle the environmental and economic challenges that lie ahead. Click here to listen to part of my contribution.
MEETING WITH NETWORK RAIL
Network Rail recently replaced a concrete wall along the tracks on North Worple Way in Mortlake with a set of metal railings. This has led to a considerable noise increase for residents living nearby. Last week I was pleased to join with a number of Lib Dem local activists, including Richmond Council candidate, Anthony Paterson, for a meeting at the site with Network Rail. The representatives from Network Rail agreed to look into installing some acoustic panels to go behind the fencing. I will follow up with them in the coming weeks to find out how they plan to tackle this, and when we can expect changes to be made.
KEW ROTARY CLUB AND KEW VILLAGE MARKET
I had the pleasure of visiting Kew Village Market last weekend to present donations to local charities, including a donation to the homelessness charity Spear and a donation of £1000 to Kew Rotary Club's fundraising drive for Richmond Foodbank.
The Rotary Club has been selected by the National Emergencies Trust to receive match funding for up to £250 per donor up to a total of £10,000. Any donations to their fundraising drive received up to next Tuesday - the 13th of April - will be doubled. You can see more information and donate here
This brings the total charity donations from Kew Village Market since the market began to £82,310. This is an astonishing achievement and I thank the Kew Village Market team for their outstanding contribution to the community.
NHS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
This month I am nominating some of our superb local NHS clinicians and teams for the 2022 NHS Parliamentary Awards. One of the categories I can nominate a candidate for is the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award seeks to honour someone who has worked or volunteered with the NHS for 40 years or more, and who has left a lasting legacy. This award is also open to former NHS workers who came out of retirement to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. If you know of a local resident you think I should nominate for this award, please email me by 11 April on email@example.com
NEW MALDEN RECOGNISED BY THE TIMES
I was very pleased to see that New Malden has been judged one of the Best Places to Live in London by The Times today. The Times noted the strong local schools and New Malden's affordable property market. They were especially impressed with New Malden's Korean community and the many wonderful Korean restaurants in the town. I was delighted to see the appeal of this friendly and vibrant town recognised.
BEVERLEY BROOK OIL SPILL
The Environment Agency wrote contacted me again this week with an update on the pollution incident affecting the Pyl Brook, Beverley Brook and the Thames.
Their staff continue to monitor the impacts along the affected stretch of river and work with contractors to contain and clean up the black waste oil. Contractors have installed measures to capture the oil at three locations along the affected stretch of river (please see map at the bottom.) Two pipe dams were constructed to slow the flow of water to enable more of the oil to be captured and skimmed off. The iridescent sheen could remain on the water for a time, however, as it is not possible to capture such a thin layer of oil. The small amount remaining will gradually disperse and they expect it will have a minimal effect on water quality.
The Environment Agency is continuing to collect evidence in their investigation into this unpermitted water discharge activity. They continue to monitor the impact on wildlife in the area. A small number of wildfowl have been affected, but there have been no signs of distress to fish or other wildlife.
If you have any concerns please contact their free 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
COVID-19 VACCINATIONS FOR 5 - 11 YEAR-OLDS NOW AVAILABLE
The NHS is offering coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 years. You are now able to get your child vaccinated at vaccination centres, pharmacies and GPs offering jabs for this age group. You can view these sites and make an appointment through the National Booking Service or by calling 119.
Children aged 5-11 with no other underlying health conditions will be offered two paediatric (child) doses of the vaccine, with at least 12 weeks between doses. A paediatric dose is smaller than doses given to those aged 12 and over. If a child has had COVID-19 they will still get extra protection from the vaccine, but they will need to wait 12 weeks from their infection before getting vaccinated.
CLICK HERE for more information about vaccinations for 5-11 year-old children.
CLICK HERE for the online NHS COVID-19 vaccination booking service.
LOCAL GREEN HOMES GRANT OFFER
The Green Homes Grant is a scheme for homeowners and landlords in England to support the installation of energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements to their homes. Twelve London boroughs have joined together to carry out retrofits across the participating boroughs. Those living in the coldest and least efficient properties may be eligible for up to £10,000 of grant funding to cover the installation of efficiency measures. To be eligible, households must:
Have a household income of £30,000 or less, or £20,000 or less after housing costs
Live in a property with an EPC rating of D, E, F or G (the four lowest ratings)
Both homeowners and landlords are eligible to apply for the scheme. More information here.
FREE HOME SENSORS FOR UNPAID CARERS IN RICHMOND
Richmond Carers Centre, working with Richmond Council’s Adult Social Care team, has partnered with Canary Care to pilot a new project to help support vulnerable people with care and support needs. If a vulnerable person has a fall, or leaves the house in the middle of the night, their unpaid carer (usually a family member) will be sent a text or email. Please note, the sensors do not record or provide any sound.
Kingston’s businesses are once again providing young residents with Easter fun. On Thursday 14 April, ‘Thumbs Up It’s Thursday’ events will return with family activities in the town centre. From storytelling to Easter egg decorating, creative workshops and 'kids eat free' deals, there will be plenty to keep little ones happy.
If you can't make it on Thursday, a free Easter Trail will be running every day throughout the school holidays. There are colourful eggs to spot on posters in the windows of eight Kingston businesses, and sweet treats and goodies to pick up inside the store! Find out more.
VOICES OF HOPE
Voices of Hope, together with Kingston Council, are working on a groundbreaking project which uses creative writing, photography and film to tell the stories of women who have been through abuse. It’s called the Pearl Project and is focused on Kingston, but will have a much wider reach. If you would like to participate in telling survivors' stories through art, you can find out more on Pearl Project's Twitter, or get involved.