As we continue to tackle Coronavirus, we need to be doing far more to tackle the two crises that will still face us after the pandemic - the jobs crisis and the climate emergency.
The government’s recent announcement of a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. However, it does not go far enough either in ambition or financially. Sarah and the Liberal Democrats are calling for £150 billion in funding for a Green Economic Recovery, with investment across every sector of the UK economy to fuel sustainable growth.
The climate emergency is not only a challenge but also a huge opportunity for job creation. We need to harness this opportunity by funding the skills and training needed to transition to a net zero carbon economy. This must not happen by simply decarbonising and losing our existing industries, but instead by utilising the rapid advancements in climate science and technology to create and support new, green industry.
In order to do this, the government must have a more coordinated response across Departments. Sarah has repeatedly called for a Department and a Secretary of State for Climate Change to bring all the different strands together and to be held accountable for delivering the government’s net zero pledge.
Sarah would also like to see the government empowering local authorities and not centralising power and decision making.
Changing the way that we generate energy is not the only hurdle the UK faces in its transition towards net zero. Sarah believes that we must improve efficiency to reduce our energy consumption, starting with the UK housing stock. After all, the greenest energy is the energy that we don’t use. There are two key approaches we need to take to combat carbon emissions.
The first is to upgrade existing homes with better insulation and sources of heating and power. Upgrading existing buildings makes sense. It conserves and enhances existing places and neighbourhoods and avoids the ultra-high embodied energy costs of rebuild.
The second is to ensure that all new homes are built to a net zero carbon standard. That standard was ready to go in 2015 when the Liberal Democrats left government but was rejected by the Conservatives in 2016.
Upgrading our notoriously poorly insulated housing stock will reduce demand for energy, cut bills, end fuel poverty, optimise the health and wellbeing of our communities and create jobs. Sarah is committed to standing alongside local authorities, who are well placed to deliver action on home retrofit due to their carbon reduction pledges, knowledge of local areas and housing stock. She will support them to make further progress in this area by pushing the government for long-term funding.
Accessible Transport for All
Public transport is a gateway to the world around us. No one should be put off taking a journey by fears about a lack of basic safety features. The reality, however, is that people are.
Over a third of rail stations in the UK lack tactile paving, the absence of which presents a risk to blind people and those with impaired vision. Wheelchair spaces measured by standards established 40 years ago are the norm. Train doors are not the same height as platforms, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries each year. Inaccessible signage continues to obstruct effortless travel.
These deficiencies not only obstruct the journeys of disabled and older travellers, but of tourists and commuters alike. They also inspire car use which contributes to air pollution and poor public health.
As a champion of the ethos that access is not a charitable add-on, but a basic requirement, Sarah is calling for the implementation of minimum standards for accessibility, quality and performance.
Investment in accessible public transport will open doors to members of our communities, stimulate regional and local prosperity and help tackle the climate crisis.
Supporting High Streets and Businesses
Businesses have suffered hugely as a result of Covid-19 and more needs to be done to ensure that businesses, communities and town centres are able to not only survive the pandemic, but thrive when the pandemic is behind us.
Our high streets are in crisis and Covid-19 accelerated years of decline. Unless this trend is reversed, British high streets will become unrecognisable and thousands of retail workers will see their livelihoods jeopardised. Out of 2.8 million retail employees, nearly 60% are women, and research has shown them to be disproportionately affected by redundancies.
The UK must not just reverse this pattern, but act to create new retail jobs and businesses. We must reduce barriers to entry for new retailers through innovative solutions, such as flexible leases and turnover-based rents. And we must champion retail entrepreneurship, not least to help counter the oncoming rise in unemployment.
Sarah wants the government to work with local authorities to support them in offering more flexible rates terms to new businesses that want to come in and set up in the large voids that a lot of town centres will be experiencing in their retail spaces. Those voids affect town centres and communities enormously. Sarah wants to see barriers to new entrants into the retail sector lowered and innovation encouraged.
Hammersmith Bridge Closure
The closure of Hammersmith Bridge is causing great inconvenience to local residents, especially since the emergency closure to pedestrians and cyclists in August.
The bridge is owned by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and maintained by Transport for London. Neither has the funds to pay for repairs or a temporary bridge, so the Government will have to step in to fund them. Sarah Olney is calling on the Department for Transport to address this urgently. Sarah is also working with TfL to reduce the impact on local residents while the bridge is being repaired.
For more information about Sarah's actions on this, please click here.
No To Heathrow Expansion
Sarah Olney opposed building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Sarah was delighted to be in front of the Royal Courts of Justice on February 27 when the Appeals Court ruled against the Government, saying they had unlawfully ignored the Paris Agreement in their proposal. Sarah hoped this judgment will put an end to the third runway for good, although the Supreme Court overturned that judgment in February 2020, opening the door to reviving the third runway proposal.
Whether it does or not, Sarah will continue to fight for better air quality and noise reduction for the residents of Richmond Park.
Strengthening Police Presence
Richmond Park is one of the safest constituencies in London, but there are still security issues that need to be addressed. From crime against young people, to antisocial behaviour in the town centres, to excessive noise in residential areas, we need the police to b
e a more visible presence in the community.
Sarah has been working closely with Met Police to improve the safety and quality of life of Richmond Park constituents since taking office, and she is committed to fighting for continuous improvement.
Throughout the pandemic Sarah has worked to ensure that police presence is high where compliance with safety guidance is an issue.
Local Tranport Improvements
For too long, residents of southwest London put up with poor public transport services - trains that were late, crowded and uncomfortable despite year after year of fare rises across the system.
My constituents have also seen their bus services reduced and entire routes cancelled, causing great inconvenience in their lives.
As we come out of the pandemic, we need to ensure that our public transport system is financially viable by encouraging residents to return to using it in high numbers. In order to do so, we need to see the improvements to stations, carriages and service for which we have waited years. And we need to see more investment in buses and bus routes throughout this constituency and greater London.
Sarah will be working with Transport for London, the Department of Transport, Southwestern Railway and Network Rail throughout her time in Parliament to meet these goals.